Police have launched a murder investigation following the death of 21-year-old woman who was found in Holbeck in the early hours of this morning.
At 1.18am today (23 December 2015) officers were called to Springwell Road, in Holbeck, where the woman, Daria Pionko, had been found unconscious with injuries consistent with an assault. She was taken to Leeds General Infirmary by ambulance but was pronounced dead a short time later.
A scene has been put in place in Springwell Road and is undergoing forensic examination. A post mortem examination is taking place today to establish the cause of death.
Detective Superintendent Simon Atkinson, of West Yorkshire Police Homicide and Major Enquiry Team, said:
“We are treating Daria Pionko’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.”
A 38-year-old man has been arrested in connection with the incident and is currently in custody.
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. Clearly our focus now is on tracing the person responsible for this murder and we hope that improved relationship will assist the investigation.”
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Homicide and Major Enquiry Team by ringing 101 or call the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.