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Sex worker speaks of dangers after Sydney stabbing

Outside an eerily quiet block of apartments on Clarence Street in Sydney’s CBD today, a solitary pink and white toy bear sits next to a dark green doorframe.

Sharply dressed journalists loiter nearby and check their smartphones for the latest updates before looking into the camera to tell Australians of the horrors that took place here just 24 hours ago.

It was here that a young woman was killed — believed to have had her throat slit — allegedly by Mert Ney before he took a butcher’s knife onto the crowded city streets to terrorise pedestrians.

As police investigate the alleged knifeman’s motive and his past is examined in great detail by the media, the angry world of Twitter and Facebook has Australians tearing shreds off one another over why it all happened.

All the while, the solitary toy bear that rests on the dark green doorframe holds a message that simply reads: “Rest in Peace. Taken too soon.”

It’s a tribute to Michaela Dunn, 24, from Sydney’s inner west, whose violent death has been overshadowed by her alleged killer’s six-minute rampage on Sydney’s streets.

Her mother described her daughter to Nine as a “beautiful, loving woman who had studied at university and travelled widely”.

However, when media outlets reported the former Rose Bank college student was a sex worker, her tragic death did not come as a surprise to those who share her occupation.

“I’m not shocked by it, but it saddens me because I think violence and murder is part of our job,” sex worker Jessie Lee Pierce told news.com.au.

“Unfortunately, I think the stigma attached to our profession leads us to be looked upon by lots of men as second-class people.

“That leads to disrespect and that leads some men to believe they can do whatever they want with us.”

Asked to confirm whether Ms Dunn was working as a sex working at the time of her death, NSW Police Commissioner Mick Willing would confirm, but said: “The sort of information that’s out there that would glean to the fact that he was there for the purposes of prostitution. “But in fairness, we need to canvass and get statements from neighbours. We need to look at her history, look at her social media, before we confirm that.”

Police have established Ney made phone contact ahead of an appointment with the 24-year-old victim.

However, before that, it’s understood the victim had advertised her services on Locanto — an online classifieds network on which Aussies advertise everything from job opportunities to second-hand baby clothes.

Ms Pierce says the website is well-known by Aussie men who are looking for sex workers and she used it herself to get her career started.

“All the guys know it (Locanto)”, she said. “It’s either very cheap or free for sex workers, unlike some of the top-end sites like Scarlet Blue where you can end up spending hundreds of dollars to advertise.”

However, she said the downside to using Locanto, and similar sites like Cracker and Backpage, is that sex workers end up with a lot of “last-minute” bookings.

Ms Pierce has previously spoken out about sites like these, saying they attract “sick” clients.

When she used Backpage, she said one man wanted to act out a rape scene with her and another asked her if she could have sex with animals.

After advertising online, Ms Pierce was confronted with a client who wanted to tie her up as well as gag and strangle her — in what she said sounded like “organised rape”.

She now advertises on higher-end websites, where the standard practice is to take a deposit and the client’s full name and number before a meeting.

This means that if anything happens to her, the client can be easily traced.

It does not, however, make her job safe by any means.

“Violence is something that’s always in the back of your mind. It doesn’t really matter where you advertise, you’re likely to encounter violence and mistreatment,” she said. “It needs to stop.”

Ms Pierce said a major part of preventing violence against sex workers lies in law reform across the country, meaning sex workers should not be scared of incriminating themselves by reporting violence against them to the police.

After the death of Ms Dunn, police allege Ney ran down to a city pub where he stabbed a 41-year-old woman in the shoulder.

Heroic bystanders spotted Ney running around the city’s streets with a butcher’s knife about 2pm before they managed to detain him with chairs and a milk crate.

In a statement this afternoon, NSW Police said officers were working with the heartbroken Dunn family.

“The investigation into the circumstances surrounding Michaela’s murder is being led by detectives from the Homicide Squad under Strike Force Lalchere,” police said.

Ms Pierce advised that for sex workers to eliminate as much risk as possible, they should do the following:

— Get a bank deposit. This can be instant through smart ATMs.

— Get a mobile number and run it through social media.

— Possibly get a reference of another escort the client has seen.

— Always trust their gut instinct and pay close attention to the client communication, as it will tell you a lot.

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