Police have named a woman who died in a ‘managed area’ of Leeds created for prostitutes to ply their trade.
Officers say she was Daria Pionko who was found in Springwell Road, Holbeck, Leeds in the early hours December 23.
Miss Pionko is a Polish national but had been living in Leeds. A man has been arrested.
Police found the woman in Springwell Road, Holbeck, at 1.18am today, suffering injuries they say were consistent with an assault. They were called to the scene by a friend of the woman, who reported the attack.
She was taken to Leeds General Infirmary by ambulance but was pronounced dead a short time later.
The scene of the murder, outside a business premises on the Emanuel Trading Estate off Springwell Road, is currently being examined by forensic investigators and a post mortem examination is due to take place later today to establish the cause of death.
Detective Superintendent Simon Atkinson, of West Yorkshire Police Homicide and Major Enquiry Team, said: “We are treating this woman’s death as murder and a full investigation has been launched. Our enquiries are currently at a very early stage and we would like to hear from anyone who was in the area of Springwell Road between 8pm last night and about 1.30am this morning.
“We can confirm that the victim was a sex worker and the incident has taken place in the managed area where sex workers operate within a defined area during set hours. We are therefore appealing to anyone involved in any aspect of sex work in the managed area in Holbeck to let us know anything they have seen or heard that could assist the investigation.
“Clearly a young woman has lost her life in violent circumstances and it is absolutely vital that anyone who saw anything suspicious during the evening and into the early hours contacts us immediately.”
Police said today that a 38-year-old man has been arrested in connection with the incident and is currently in custody, but insist they are keeping an open mind about the case.
The groundbreaking scheme, hailed as a success by city officials, means women in the sex trade can operate freely between the hours of 7pm and 7am within the specified area as long as they adhere to a list of rules.
The strategy, which was quietly introduced on October 1 last year, has attracted some criticism from local business people who say they are blighted by problems associated with prostitution and are unhappy that police are not enforcing the law.
But council and police chiefs said this summer that there is evidence it has been successful and is likely to continue.
Chief Superintendent Paul Money, Leeds District Commander, said: “We are acutely aware that the murder of this young woman will cause understandable concern in the community and we are keen to reassure people that we are doing everything we can to support and assist the investigation. Officers will be focusing increased patrols into the area for the foreseeable future to provide a visible reassurance to people.”
Superintendent Sam Millar, who heads the city’s community safety partnership Safer Leeds, said: “The managed area has been operating in Holbeck since last year following a partnership agreement between the police, council and other key agencies after many years of an enforcement-based approach that did little to change the situation.
“The aim has been been to reduce the impact of sex work on nearby residential communities and provide an environment where sex workers are more likely to engage with third sector agencies who can offer them support, ultimately to exit this activity.
“The area is regularly patrolled by officers and we have seen a large increase in sex workers having the confidence to report offences committed against them to the police.
“It has seen some significant successes, including the imprisonment of dangerous offenders who presented a risk to the wider community. Those prosecutions would not have been possible without the vastly improved relationship between sex workers and the authorities that the managed area has brought.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Homicide and Major Enquiry Team via 101 or call the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.