how the Baltic Mafia is terrorising
She strikes a pose for the camera, her bright eyes shining and a smile playing on her lips.
A favourite picture from her family’s album shows Alisa Dmitrijeva a few weeks after she arrived in Britain to start a new life.
The pretty Latvian teenager was excited about her future.
She enrolled at a college in Wisbech to study the English language and was soon popular among the huge numbers of fellow East Europeans living in the bustling Fenland town.
Alisa rode a bicycle around the cobbled streets, met her friends Erica and Zuzana in the local coffee shops and was often spotted at a lively nightclub where other Latvian youngsters congregate at weekends to dance and drink.
But now 17-year-old Alisa is dead; her body was found by a walker on New Year’s Day in thick woodland on the Queen’s Sandringham estate in Norfolk.
She had been murdered and her corpse was so badly decomposed that police forensic scientists were only able to identify it by using the DNA from her bones.
Her body had lain hidden since she vanished in late August last year from her home, a neat semi-detached house overlooking a park in Wisbech where she lived with her grandmother, Lidija, 62, father Olegs, 40, and little sister Victorija, aged ten.
Her mobile phone was missing and police are convinced that she hadn’t run away because her passport and clothes were still in her room at home.
The end of Alisa’s life was tragic but her death offers a terrifying window into a far wider problem — that of the sinister Eastern European drug and crime rings nicknamed ‘the Baltic Mafia’ with which she became embroiled.
These gangs are taking over the English Fenland towns, terrifying local residents and ensnaring teenage girls such as Alisa.
Wisbech is a once-glorious and wealthy town boasting the oldest grammar school in the country, overlooking the banks of the River Nene. However, drug dealers operate among the Georgian terraces, the cobbled streets, and in the grounds of the magnificent early Norman St Peter and St Paul’s Church.
Even in daylight, drunks lie among the church’s tombstones, and the churchyard is littered with empty beer cans covered in Slavic brand names.
A third of the town’s 20,000 population is from Eastern Europe — renting poor quality accommodation from private landlords. In the streets, you hear a cacophony of foreign tongues.
Each of the separate Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish and Russian communities have their own supermarkets, off licences, clubs and pubs selling cut-price Eastern European alcohol.
This week the Mail visited the town after a flurry of letters from local residents in which they complained about a spate of murders, sex attacks and stabbings.
Our investigation coincided with a five-day police crackdown on violent crime in the area, which resulted in a series of drugs raids (when £40,000 of cannabis was found) with 25 people arrested for suspected offences ranging from knifings to burglary.
Significantly, Detective Inspector David Murphy said much of the extraordinary crime wave had been caused by drinking and fighting among the new migrants, many of whom have — up to now — managed to escape justice by moving from one address to another so they are not caught.
As one Wisbech resident wrote to the Mail: ‘We are in a desperate situation, yet no politician will confront the issue for fear of being branded a racist.
'Yet, the mass of Latvians, Lithuanians, Polish and Russians into this small town has been astonishing to say the least.
‘Local 18 to 25-year-olds are losing out in the jobs market. There’s widespread drunken and anti-social behaviour. Shop-lifting and motoring offences are commonplace.
‘There have been five murders among the Eastern European communityliving here in the past two years. These new arrivals drink alcohol in public, urinate against parked cars or walls, and they are very intimidating and congregate in gangs.
'They originally came to work on farms here five years ago, but now own shops and cafes, clubs and restaurants. Drug-dealing and drug-taking is commonplace.
‘Please can somebody help to bring this to the attention of the public, the politicians and the police?’
Alisa's life spiralled out of control as she turned into a drug-addicted wild child
The author of this letter also wrote to Immigration Minister Damian Green, Wisbech MP Steve Barclay and local councillors asking for help. He has yet to receive a reply from any of them.
He is not a lone voice. We spoke to many other town residents with countless stories of how the East European migrant influx had brought with it a culture of crime and anti-social behaviour.
They were all reluctant to let us use their full names for fear of reprisals.
But one lady of 63, living in once-quiet road near the town centre, has made her views known on a community website. She told the Mail how Wisbech has changed for the worse.
‘We are afraid to go out after dark. This is not the town it used to be just a few years ago.
‘There have been two stabbings near here that I know of. In the park, one woman was sexually attacked by what the police said was a man with a foreign accent. A young teenager of only 13 or 14 was also sexually assaulted in daylight recently.’
Indeed, many migrants are concerned about rising crime levels.
Young migrant Vadim Poloni, originally from Moscow, said it had become a dangerous town where people, of all nationalities, were scared of attacks.
‘Sometimes I think it is rougher than in Russia,’ he says. ‘It’s a bit tough here. There are troubles because of drinking, like always, and because of drugs. Maybe it’s just because some people don’t understand each other.’
So what of Alisa herself? What happened to transform the girl who arrived in Wisbech in 2009 from a happy-go-lucky 15-year-old into a murder victim?
To find out, we spoke to her friends in this country and in Riga, the capital of Latvia, where she was raised.
What we have uncovered is an unedifying tale of how her life spiralled out of control as she turned into a drug-addicted wild child.
In Riga, friends say, Alisa was always laughing and happy, taking the bus to school with her friends.
After she arrived in the UK in late 2009, she studied for three months at a local school in Chatteris, eight miles from Wisbech, before transferring to the Wisbech campus of the College of West Anglia to study English language full-time.
However, she skipped classes and took last summer’s exams only because her grandmother promised her a present if she completed them.
She constantly begged for money from her family, and sold almost everything she owned (including her bicycle for £10) to pay for cannabis, crystal meth, a highly addictive man-made psycho-stimulant, and ketamine, a powerful tranquilliser used by vets on horses.
Her drugs supplier was a dealer who used a two-door red sports car to sell drugs to teenagers in Wisbech’s East European community.
Last year Alisa also started regularly travelling by train to Notting Hill in London, where she knew a Lithuanian dealer called Dainiukas who sold her drugs. He and the addicted Alisa may even have become lovers.
‘She owed a lot of money to this Dainiukas,’ said a male friend of Alisa. ‘Her debts for drugs were mounting and had reached £15,000 when she went missing.’
‘She wanted marijuana, crystal or ketamine and she couldn’t pay for it straight away,’ explained another of Alisa’s friends from the Wisbech Latvian community.
Her best friend Erica added: ‘I was telling her for a long time that if she kept doing things like this she would end up in trouble.’
Alisa's corpse was so badly decomposed that police forensic scientists were only able to identify it by using the DNA from her bones. Her body had lain hidden since she vanished in late August last year from her home
While her friends and family were obviously concerned about Alisa, last summer she began to fall out with everyone around her.
She quarrelled with her mother, Anzela, who had come to East Anglia in 2008, a year before the rest of the family, to find a job and put down roots.
Anzela has since separated from Alisa’s father, Olegs, and lives and works in Lincolnshire.
She revealed that her daughter’s behaviour altered completely when she arrived in England.
She revealed that her daughter’s behaviour altered completely when she arrived in England.
‘Alisa started taking drugs. I know that,’ says Mrs Dmitrijeva. ‘I had no idea Wisbech had such serious crime problems. She changed so much from how she had been in Latvia that we started arguing.’
By last year, Alisa would ask to borrow money from her mother. Yet if Anzela offered to cook her a meal instead of handing over the requested £10, Alisa would flounce off, and it was after one such argument in July that the two last saw each other. That was a month before Alisa’s disappearance.
Tellingly, despite the rift, Alisa would still send her mother emails and messages on social networking sites.
Some, towards the end of her life, begged for help. One on Facebook, and posted a month before she disappeared, says simply: ‘Mama, I need a doctor.’
In another message, again posted last year, she uses a common Latvian expression to ask forgiveness of her mother, which translates as: ‘Mama, take me back inside your womb.’
Sadly, it was probably already too late to save Alisa, who was embroiled in a spiral of drug addiction, and, almost certainly, in debt to criminal gangs in East Anglia and London.
On Thursday, police investigating her murder began a new search of a remote beach car park in Snettisham in Norfolk.
They say that Alisa may have been there in the early hours of August 31 last year and that she was last seen with two male acquaintances getting into a green Lexus car just after midnight that day.
The men were traced by detectives and said they had dropped off Alisa near an Asda store in Wisbech. However, CCTV footage shows no evidence of her arriving there.
We have been told a different story by her friends. Many of them refuse to co-operate with the police because they — like the local Wisbech people — fear reprisals from drug and crime gangs.
One of Alisa’s inner circle, who has not spoken to police, told the Mail: ‘On that last day, Alisa was seen with three or four young men who, I think, were Lithuanian. Their faces didn’t look exactly saintly. We think there is a 50 per cent chance they murdered her.’
Another friend explained they had been warned off speaking publicly by their own community.
‘Whoever talks about this could face reprisals. That’s why so many of Alisa’s friends have hidden away (from the police).’
Of course, these four men may have just been innocent acquaintances of Alisa, who had a reputation for changing her boyfriends ‘like socks’, according to one girl friend.
Or were they up to something much more sinister, which ended with Alisa’s life being snuffed out, either on a deserted Norfolk beach or in the heart of the Sandringham woods?
Perhaps, speculate some of her pals, she overdosed and died before her body was ‘disposed of’ on the Sandringham estate, 21 miles from Wisbech.
Whatever the truth, one thing is certain from the photos collected by friends and family of Alisa’s days in England. She arrived here a typical, innocent 15-year-old. Her skin was clear, her eyes sparkled with good health.
Yet, a little over a year later, pictures reveal a different Alisa. Then she was dropping out of classes, deep in debt, dependent on drugs and known for stealing from local Latvian stores.
In one haunting shot, Alisa has puffy eyes and is wearing a white swimsuit as she lies on the grass in the sunshine. She is smiling at the camera, but in her grubby left hand is a lighted cannabis joint.
What a terrible end for the teenager who had hoped for such a bright future in a new country — but whose life has become a symbol for how East European migration has fundamentally changed once-proud Fenland towns such as Wisbech.