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A WHITE tent covers the spot where Ireland's most notorious vice queen was beaten to death.

Marie Bridgeman's battered body was found yesterday on the pavement near her /300,000 home in Ratoath, Co Meath.

The killing brings to an end her three-decade reign as the Republic's cruellest brothel boss.

A garda spokesman said: "We found her body after a concerned neighbour heard fighting on the street and rang us.

"The body was on a footpath and had obvious injuries - especially to the head."

Her 36-year-old son Kevin Bridgeman was charged in connection with her death yesterday at Navan District Court.

Judge John Brophy remanded him in custody to appear before Kilcock District Court next Tuesday.

Mother-of-two Bridgeman, 56, was rarely far from the headlines. She was twice convicted of running brothels and was forced to hand over EUR250,000 to the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB).

Two years ago she foretold her own death after admitting she was terrified someone would kill her.

That grisly prediction came true some time before 12.10am yesterday when gardai found her body in the Old Mill Estate.

Bridgeman, originally from Finglas, Dublin, made many enemies during her criminal career.

She was even nicknamed "Madam Mean" by the prostitutes who worked for her.

But gardai are not linking her death to the vice industry.

Today countless businessmen, politicians and gardai will be breathing sighs of relief that Bridgeman has brought their sordid sex secrets to her grave.

For they were among the tens of thousands of clients her prostitutes serviced.

Bridgeman was unique to the vice trade - she never worked as a prostitute. Instead, she made her money from other women who worked out of a number of Dublin apartments.

Her prostitutes, who charged pounds 60 (/80) for half-an-hour, gave her 33 per cent of everything they earned.

Greedy Bridgeman, who got into the business after her marriage broke down, made a fortune.

She ran two brothels in Dublin where 12 girls would work a shift system.

Gardai believe she earned more than pounds 750,000 (EUR930,000) between 1995 and 2000. But she was never satisfied and fined her prostitutes pounds 10 if they were five minutes late for a shift. She also made them buy their own condoms.

And she even hired a 16 year old girl to attract punters who had a schoolgirl fetish.

After a newspaper exposed her sleazy business, Bridgeman said: "I thought I would be killed, that somebody would want to have a go at me. I spent two weeks in my house and barely went out."

The decision to hire a teenager disgusted her older prostitutes, who feared for her safety.

A source said: "Bridgeman was a very greedy woman. She got everyone to do the work but she pocketed the cash.

"You wouldn't know by looking at her that she had loads of dosh.

"She had no interest in clothes, didn't wear any make-up and her hair was always badly permed.

"And she didn't flash her money about. No one really knows what she did with it.

"But no matter what you thought of her this was a terrible way for her to die."

Bridgeman was first convicted of running a brothel on Wexford Street, Dublin, in 1998.

But she escaped with a measly EUR630 fine after telling the judge she would "retire".

But she couldn't turn her back on such easy money and in February 2001 she was back in the dock for the same offence.

She was convicted of operating two brothels - La Mirage in Wexford Street and The Escort Studio in the suburb of Ranelagh.

Gardai believed Bridgeman was earning around pounds 5,000 (EUR6,500) a week from these operations.

She again pleaded guilty and was given an 18-month suspended sentence and fined pounds 1,500 (EUR1,800).

After that she vowed to quit the business for good but two weeks later the CAB raided another of her brothels at Waterloo Road in posh Dublin 4.

Bridgeman was horrified when CAB officers handed her a bill for EUR700,000 for undeclared income from prostitution.

In the end she agreed the EUR250,000 settlement after selling a house she owned in Santry, Dublin.

In an exclusive interview with this newspaper in 2001 Bridgeman said: "I'm no millionaire. If I really was I'd be off swanning around the Caribbean.

"I was the kind of person who liked to have a good time.

"I've never been a good saver and any money I did have is slipping away very quickly.

"I got into this business to look after my sons. I was just separated and struggling for money. I did it for my family. It's all I know how to do."

Bridgeman called for the sex trade to be legalised to protect prostitutes and punters.

She said: "I really don't know why the gardai clamp down on it. It's not like murder or anything like that.

"When you think of all the serious crime going on and the number of people missing, surely they have something better to do.

"It was a service and all the gardai have done is changed the industry. They haven't made it go away.

"At least when we were in charge the gardai knew what was going on.

"They used to come in and have a cup of tea with us. If there was any kind of incident, we would ring them.

"We even helped with the murder investigation into Belinda Pereira who was killed in 1996."

During the interview Bridgeman said she was leaving the business for good - a vow she seemed to have kept.

She explained: "I'm finished with it now and I'm sad about that.

"They were some of the best years of my life. There was a great camaraderie.

"It was like a small village. We all knew each other and we all looked after the girls.

"All I'm concerned about now is the safety of the women. They're now being left open to rape and murder."


CHARGE: Son Kevin Bridgeman was remanded in custody in connection with mum's death; GRISLY TASK: Forensics officers examine the scene where Marie Bridgeman was beaten to death yesterday; MADAM MEAN: Bridgeman was cruel brothel boss who took a third of girls' earnings
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jan 23, 2003
Previous Article:Murder accused 'will walk'.
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