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Phoenix tugs at the hem of her skirt. She wears towering suede boots to the knee, horn-rimmed glasses, a black bodycon dress: thin cotton stretched to almost-transparency. Her makeup is immaculate, her lips stained purple, her hair falls in thick, blonde waves formed of shining polyester. Through five layers: merino, wool, knitted jumper, denim, leather, I feel the cold seep in, and shake my feet to keep circulation. The long expanse of exposed leg between Phoenix's dress and boot-tops is not yet goose-bumped.
Then saunters, hips swinging, down the footpath, one eye watching for pebbles on the concrete that could tip a platform heel. Sue Merrett, a gravel-voiced outreach worker, mans a white van that gives out bread, hot drinks and condoms. She says there are about 65 women who work the streets in Christchurch, and anywhere between five and 20 women out on Manchester St on any given night.
Tonight there are about seven. Occasionally, a passing car-load of men screams obscenities at the women. Sometimes they hurl glass bottles. A while back, there was a period when guys would come with paintball guns and shoot at the women as they tried to work.
And they do. I can see ladies as old as 70, they get in there. No one should ever die from it. A few metres down this stretch of road, Phoenix points to the corner where sex worker Mallory Manning was taken. Two years before Manning, the body of another sex worker [name suppressed] was left in that same river, after she was raped and killed by Peter Steven Waihape.
Her body was found, strangled, in an empty lot. And this is the same street that Renee Duckmanton was taken from in Her murderer left her body burning by the side of a road.