Alleged pimp fled family home after being exposed in an undercover Sunday Life investigation, court hears
An alleged pimp fled his family home after being exposed in an undercover newspaper investigation, a court heard today.
Police claimed Paul Ervine went on the run to England and Wales, leaving behind a "Dear John" letter for his wife.
The 60-year-old is charged with running a brothel in south Belfast, along with controlling and inciting prostitution for gain.
Ervine, from Lisburn, Co Antrim, insists he was only acting as a commissioned agent for escorts.
He was granted bail despite a detective claiming he could not be trusted to remain in Northern Ireland.
Ervine was arrested last week following an investigation stretching back to last August.
Belfast Magistrates' Court heard how a Sunday Life journalist met him after answering an online advert for escorts.
He was secretly recorded and filmed going into "candid" detail about the work involving sex in exchange for cash, a judge was told.
"There could be no misunderstanding what would be expected of the reporter," the detective said.
At a second meeting two days later she was allegedly taken to a brothel being run at a terraced house in the Village area of the city.
The property was used solely for sexual activities, the court heard.
Eventually the journalist was said to have revealed her real identity, offering Ervine the right to reply.
"When the newspaper published he just upped and left, and has not returned to the family address, having left behind a Dear John letter," according to the detective.
"He has effectively been on the run ever since."
Ervine, who is currently of no fixed abode, was seeking bail to stay at hostel accommodate.
Police stressed they were opposed to him getting out of custody to live at any other address.
"He has shown he's will to flee at the drop of a hat, no matter where he's living," the officer claimed.
He said Ervine knew he was wanted by the PSNI and even made contact following the newspaper exposure.
However, the accused failed to honour assurances to surrender himself into custody, it was alleged.
"He lied about his location, telling me he was in Liverpool when we had information he was in Newry that day," the detective added.
"I can't believe a word he's telling me."
Ervine was said to have spent significant periods in Wales and England before returning to Northern Ireland recently.
District Judge George Conner was told police also believe he has been putting money towards a property investment in Greece.
"The fear is he will not only flee to England, but further afield and it will be impossible to bring him back," the detective said.
Further financial investigations are now being carried out into any money earned by Ervine.
Defence solicitor Matt Higgins said his client wrote the letter due to feeling "ashamed" at what his wife and family were going through.
"He wasn't just running away to Africa and never coming back," the lawyer argued.
"His family are mortified and he felt his presence there would cause more pain than good."
Mr Higgins added that Ervine believed working as a commissioned escort agent was not illegal, and not the same as acting as a pimp and brothel keeper.
The court heard how the accused has been threatened while in prison because of the charges against him.
"He feels he's in danger," Mr Higgins said.
Granting bail for Ervine to live at hostel accommodation agreed with police, Mr Conner ordered him to surrender all travel documents and disclose bank account details.
The judge also ordered: "He's not to leave Northern Ireland without the prior approval of police."