Businesses in shock after modern slavery raid in town centre

The view from Norwich Street looking into Nunn's Way in Dereham

The view from Norwich Street looking into Nunn's Way in Dereham - Credit: Archant

A feeling of disbelief has swept through Dereham after police raided a town centre address during a crackdown on modern slavery and prostitution.

Officers swarmed a trio properties in Dereham, Swaffham and the village of Little Fransham on Monday (December 20) after receiving information suggesting they were being used by sex workers. 

Two people were arrested on suspicion of modern slavery and managing prostitution, while three sex workers found at the addresses are receiving appropriate safeguarding and support.

The address raided in Dereham was in Nunn's Way, a road right in the centre of town which is bordered by several well-used stores. 

Upon hearing the news, shop staff in the area have been taken aback. 

Carol Cocoracchio, a volunteer at the Venture Farm Animal Trust charity shop on neighbouring Norwich Street, was among them. 

“You often see people running about in the area, but you do not associate it with anything," she said.

Carol Cocoracchio, a volunteer at the Venture Farm Animal Trust charity shop in Dereham

Carol Cocoracchio, a volunteer at the Venture Farm Animal Trust charity shop in Dereham - Credit: Archant

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“I did not see or hear anything suspicious. It is quite a shock for Dereham; it is not something you would associate with the town.

“You sometimes get shoplifting going on, but you never expect that sort of thing. It is quite a surprise."

Scott Butters, manager at NR Health and Fitness, which backs onto Nunn's Way, called the revelation "a real shock". 

He added: "Everything around here is an established business. Everyone knows everyone, gets on and supports each other. 

Sam Butters, manager at NR Health and Fitness in Dereham

Scott Butters, manager at NR Health and Fitness in Dereham - Credit: Archant

"As a health club, the community is at the heart of what we do. So to hear that sort of thing has been happening is crazy.”

The arrested pair, a man in his 70s and a woman in her 40s, were questioned by police and have since been released on bail.

Police have asked anyone with information to contact DC Claire Ranger by calling 101, quoting Operation Leach21.

Shop owner, Jacqui O'Donovan, who runs Vogue on Norwich Street, admitted she had "no idea" anything untoward was going on nearby. 

"It is a bit of a shock, and a bit scary," she said. 

“You do not want it happening anywhere."

Another trader, who did not wish to be named, added: "It is shocking, that is all you can say - absolutely shocking.

"I did not see or hear anything going on."

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