Back in the days when he was a serving police officer, former detective Karl Evanson used to enforce the law by raiding brothels and arresting those working inside.
That, however, was before he realised how much money was being made by the women – not to mention their pimps.
The 45-year-old quit his CID role at Bedfordshire Police and, in a dramatic reversal of the poacher-turned-gamekeeper epithet, established a string of his own highly lucrative vice dens across London and in Milton Keynes.
Ex Police Detective Constable Karl Evanson outside his home in Marston Moretaine.He is the man interviewed by the BBC admitting he ran a brothel and the police know about it
Karl Evanson and his wife Angela McQueenie, 50, an aromatherapist turned interior designer
BBC broadcaster Victoria Derbyshire was granted exclusive access to a brothel in the south-east of England where she met Louise, pictured, one of the women who works there
Given that he is now raking in thousands from the dozens of women who work at his illegal ‘House of Divine’ brothels, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Evanson – aka Mr Divine – might himself be due a visit from the vice squad.
The reality, however, is far more baffling – and troubling – than that.
For amid growing concerns that police forces across the country are turning a blind eye to brothels, Evanson appeared on television this week bragging about his ‘good working relationship’ with the police.
He told BBC presenter Victoria Derbyshire that his ‘high-class’ establishments – which he claims are operated with the ‘full knowledge’ of the authorities – provide a safe working environment for the young women selling their bodies.
Brothel owner Karl, a father of one, pictured with Victoria Derbyshire, explained the steps he took to run a ‘tight ship’ and ensure the women’s safety
Louise poses for a daily photo that is uploaded to the brothel’s Twitter account, allowing clients to see the women who are working that day. It operates out of a two-bedroom flat
The brothel does not allow drugs or alcohol and screens women before allowing them to work
His appearance, when he was filmed from behind and identified only by his first name, came as a senior police officer made the highly controversial claim that prosecution is not always the answer when it comes to Britain’s sex trade – even when the law is being broken.
Hardly surprising then that fears are growing that rather than enforcing the law as they are required to do by statute, police officers are, in effect, bestowing a quasi-legal status upon brothels.
Indeed, as the Mail discovered this week, police officers have even been to ‘inspect’ Evanson’s brothels, chatting to the prostitutes who work there to check for signs of trafficking and drug abuse, before leaving them in peace to carry on plying their illegal trade.
Evanson, a keen amateur boxer who has implemented a 70/30 financial split when it comes to the prostitutes’ takings, lives in an £700,000 detached house in Bedfordshire with his wife, Andrea McQueenie, 50, an aromatherapist turned interior designer.
Their home, and the flashy white Range Rover parked on the drive, is protected by black gates and CCTV cameras.
Their lifestyle is a far cry from the hand-to-mouth existence of the women who work at Evanson’s brothels to pay off their debts.
But, we can reveal, the truth about the tattooed former police officer and the sex empire he has run for the past 15 years is rather more seedy than he – or the police forces who look the other way – would admit.
Even his own father-in-law is horrified that the police have failed to stop him.
Terence McQueenie told us this week: ‘It smacks of corruption. There is something different about his brothel.
‘Why is his being accepted? Why has he got away with it?’
Behind the elegant facade of an upmarket flat in Baron’s Court in West London, Evanson’s House of Divine prostitutes – so charmingly referred to on his website as ‘the Hod (House of Divine) Squad’ – charge up to £130 an hour.
Occasionally, there are special offers – discounts for ‘two girls’ or, at Christmas, festive deals for each day of Advent.
The website slogan, ‘A business doing pleasure with you since 2001’, is somewhat perplexing given that Evanson left the police ‘for personal reasons’ only in 2003.
From the busy street outside, it is hard to see where ‘House of Divine Number 1’ is located, although complaints from neighbours with children, fed up with punters pressing the wrong buzzer, have led to a yellow postbox being placed outside the basement flat to guide clients to the correct doorbell.
‘I’m not going to stay here for the rest of my life,’ one of the prostitutes told the Mail, speaking under condition of anonymity.
‘But if they close the brothel, you go to work on the streets and that is so dangerous.’
Another woman working from the two-bedroom flat was said to be a biomedical scientist trying ‘to make some good money’ to pay off her student loans.
‘A lot of the girls here are students,’ said the prostitute who spoke to us.
On the Victoria Derbyshire show this week, a young blonde woman named only as ‘Louise’ and claiming to be a former marine biology student, told the presenter that no one had coerced her into being a prostitute and that brothels should be decriminalised and regulated.
‘I can’t do my job within the confines of the law,’ she said.
‘I want to earn a good wage. I don’t want a regular job where I earn minimum wage. I do it because I make good money and I want a future for myself. I want to be financially secure.’
But the background of all the women is not straightforward. One of the women from HoD who spoke to the Mail on condition of anonymity this week, said that she was trafficked to the UK from Eastern Europe by an Albanian gang 12 years ago, although there is no suggestion that Evanson was involved.
With a 15-year-old son to support, she decided to stay in the industry after that gang was arrested.
‘It’s difficult for me,’ she said, admitting that her son didn’t know what she does for a living.
‘I wouldn’t be able to explain to him why I am doing this.’
The women’s services are openly advertised on the House of Divine website, which features semi-pornographic photographs of scantily clad women as well as telephone numbers and street names for House of Divine 1 in Baron’s Court and House of Divine 2 and 3 in Westminster, just a stone’s thrown from the Metropolitan Police headquarters at New Scotland Yard.
A never-ending stream of posts from the ‘HoD’ Twitter account features daily pictures of the prostitutes in a variety of vulgar poses.
As the weather warmed up this week, Evanson tweeted: ‘Sun’s out Bums out at HOD3 today. Chanelle and Izabel are ready to strip off and get naked with you.’
A receptionist, pictured from behind with Victoria Derbyshire, is responsible for booking in clients for 30-minute, 45-minute or hour-long ‘appointments’ in the diary, just seen
Speaking to the BBC this week, with his back to the camera, Evanson openly admitted that he works hand-in-hand with the police.
‘We’ve got a good working relationship with the police,’ he said.
‘We run a tight ship — we don’t allow drugs; there are no under-age girls; we check everyone’s passports.
‘If we have any doubts that they’re not there of their own free will, we will call the police.’
He claims to have been visited by police on more than a dozen occasions and insists he pays tax on his immoral earnings.
Indeed, so brazen has Evanson been that back in February 2009, he emailed a parliamentary committee during discussions around the Policing and Crime Bill urging the legalisation of brothels and again claimed the police officers who had visited him had left ‘happy that we run a respectable business’.
He added: ‘The flip side to this is that the police have benefited from information we have willingly given them due to the good working relationship we have developed.’
He claimed that if proposals to clamp down on brothels were implemented, ‘the proposed law will put 50 girls immediately onto the streets to ply their trade’ and ‘put the girls at an even greater risk’.
Readily describing himself as ‘the owner of an escort agency’ employing 40-plus women in Milton Keynes, the effect, he said, would be to create ‘a mini ‘Soho’ in every major town and city in the country’.
In the memorandum he emailed to parliament, he said the women working for him were ‘welcome to come and go as they please’ and said that if they were forced to enter into a ‘price/client’ war out on the street, they would inevitably end up claiming welfare benefits.
He went on to claim that it was their ‘human right’ to ‘work in a safe environment with people of their choosing’.
Online, however, several women claiming to be former or current ‘HoD’ escorts paint a rather less favourable picture.
One complained: ‘I had to f*** guys for even less money during Christmas as part of Advent Calendar discounts. I hated being picked’.
Another claimed that Evanson had displayed ‘threatening behaviour towards me’ and warned her not to ‘tread on his patch’ when she decided to work independently.
Nor has Evanson’s own personal life been entirely drama-free. Just four years ago, following an affair, he admitted sending ‘heated’ text messages to a former lover, after, he said, the lover had sent text messages to his wife designed to upset her.
Evanson spent ten years as a police officer with Bedfordshire Police — six as a uniformed ‘bobby’ and four with CID in Luton. He left the service in March 2003.
As well as cashing in on the prostitution contacts he had made while serving as an officer, his earliest forays into the world of brothels coincided with the arrival of the internet which, almost overnight, transformed the sex trade, making it easy for punters and brothels to connect online.
One of his first ventures was ‘The Convent’ in Northamptonshire, which provided ‘executive’ sex services for well-heeled clients.
These included champagne-fuelled orgies and a dungeon filled with torture equipment and sex toys at a property sandwiched between a church and a care home — despite the outrage of residents.
Exposed by a Sunday newspaper in 2004, Evanson boasted: ‘I wanted this place to be special. Some of our clients say we provide a five-star service.’
It wasn’t long before his empire expanded, and he set up establishments closer to home. In 2005, a 48-year-old man died of a suspected heart attack after a sex session at the House of Divine in Milton Keynes.
In 2009, Evanson’s wife was granted planning permission to set up a massage parlour offering ‘adult services’ in Milton Keynes, despite vociferous complaints from residents, after the local council said ‘moral concerns . . . should not form part of the planning process.’
This week, Andrea’s father, Terence McQueenie, 75, told the Mail: ‘He has been doing it for many years.
‘I haven’t spoken to my daughter or him for ten years. I don’t know how my daughter is accepting it, but suffice to say there is a lot of money involved.
‘It seriously smacks of corruption — 15 years in an illegal industry.’
So how has Evanson, who refused to speak to the Mail this week, managed to evade arrest?
The answer it seems lies in a conscious decision by authorities to devote resources to dealing with sex-traffickers rather than brothels used by women who ‘choose’ to work as prostitutes.
Assistant Chief Constable Dan Vajzovic, who is the National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead for Prostitution & Sex Working, said this week that the priority for police was to protect vulnerable and abused sex workers and that officers would use their own initiative when deciding whether or not to take action against illegal brothels.
Mr Vajzovic added: ‘Enforcement alone has proven to be an inadequate response to prostitution. Officers will consider a range of factors, including the safety of the sex workers, before deciding whether prosecution is the most appropriate response.’
The Mail also contacted the Metropolitan Police this week to ask why Evanson has never been arrested. However, their response is hardly reassuring.
‘Police in Westminster are aware of the dangerous occupation of sex workers and the risks they take,’ said a spokesman.
‘While many make a choice in the sex industry, police are concerned for the welfare of those who are in the industry through slavery, human trafficking, sexual exploitation and criminal offences.’
While police officers choose to turn a blind eye, it seems that Evanson and others like him are free to operate illegal brothels – laughing in the face of the law while raking in thousands thanks to the women selling their bodies in soulless rented flats.
Additional reporting: Miles Dilworth