Northern Ireland

One man's encounter with a Belfast escort

Image publicising escorts
Image caption Websites have been advertising the services of escorts in Northern Ireland

The PSNI has labelled Northern Ireland the prostitution capital of Europe, with men spending more than £500,000 a week on sex.

With the police pinpointing Belfast city centre as a focal point for prostitutes and the men who pay for their services, Talkback set itself the challenge of contacting and coming face-to-face with a prostitute within the programme's 90-minute running time.

We began on websites advertising the services of what are euphemistically called "escorts".

Here, names, photographs and phone numbers are listed.

After trying a couple of dead lines, we got through to Natasha, a Ukrainian girl in Belfast city centre.

In an accent which was a mixture of Eastern European and Belfast, she said that she would call back in a couple of minutes.

Not expecting to hear from her, we resumed our internet trawl.

Two minutes later, Natasha did ring back.

Yes, we were able to book an appointment this lunchtime.

We were to go to Queen's Bridge where we would call again to receive further location details.

Baby's cry

I hung up at 1208 BST. With access to an internet connection it had taken eight minutes to make an appointment with a Belfast-based prostitute.

I set off on foot to Queen's Bridge.

I strained to hear Natasha's voice above the buzz of one of Belfast's busiest junctions.

She was giving me directions to a residential area about another five minutes away on foot.

Image caption A key code was required to open the gate to the escort's apartment

The next installment was a key code which opened the gate to the car park of the complex.

Then, when that had been punched in, another call for the number of the apartment.

The sound of a baby crying upstairs accompanied me as I went through the communal entrance and found the door I was looking for.

A blonde tanned girl dressed in a white T-shirt and dark shorts smiled as she answered my knock.

While not the girl pictured on the website, her greeting confirmed that she was Natasha.

In the rooms behind her, several voices chattered.

I avoided going inside by intimating having to take an urgent phone call.

Then, without making any excuses, I left.

As I opened the communal door again, I looked at my phone. It was 1237.

Just 37 minutes - coming face to face with an escort on a Tuesday afternoon in Belfast was anything but a challenge.