A Southampton mother-of-two accused of running a £500,000 a year online escort agency told a court: 'My two favourite things in the world are money and sex'.

Marie McKinlay, 40, is alleged to have employed up to 25 high class hookers who could provide anything from 'girlfriend experience to porn star experience'.

Prosecutors claim the former escort bankrolled her two daughters' private school education with her profits from Agency Allure and rented a £1,500 a month four-bed home.

Clients were charged between £300 an hour and £1,500 for a 14-hour overnight booking that 'must include some sleep'.

Giving evidence McKinlay, who denies controlling a lucrative prostitution ring, told Southwark Crown Court she formed the agency in 2002 with five other women where 'women were in control'.

Asked why she began in the vice trade she said: “I've been asked this question many times over the years and the way I answer it is, my two favourite things in the world are money and sex, I absolutely love both of them, and a job that allows me to put them both together, why wouldn't I?”

She said she had been able to meet “a class of gentlemen that I had never met before”.

“Wealthy people,' she said, 'not just wealthy people, people who worked in certain careers, like the City.

“It opened me up to meeting a broader spectrum of people than I had met before.

“I had a couple of trips to Dubai, Paris, Geneva, staying in five star hotels, places that, had I not been doing this job, I could not afford to go to.

“I saw a different side of life. I saw a life that I wanted to see.” McKinlay said she worked as an escort both independently and for a woman based in South Kensington before setting up Allure.

She said that by 2003 she was the only remaining founder member and following the birth of her first child she had taken over running the administrative side of the business.

She said: “Everybody who was on the site was paying the commission which was going back to advertise the site.

“It was not a large turnover so whatever was left after the advertising I kept.

“There were no shifts, we could start whenever we wanted, finish whenever we wanted.

“There were no fines [for missing appointments], we could turn down any client that we did not want to see, we did not have to travel to the clients in the back of beyond if we did not want to.

“We had complete control of what bookings we took.

“The whole idea was that we as women were in control of where we were.'

Mark Seymour, for McKinlay, asked what she saw her role as at Allure.

She replied: “I found clients for them, which is what they asked me to do.”

Mr Seymour asked: “Who employed who?”

McKinlay said: “Well they pay me.

“In real terms nobody employs anybody. There are no contracts.

“They are on the Allure website, they choose to get some of their work through Allure but, ultimately, I'm working for them as I'm doing what they're asking me to do.”

She told the court that photos used online were supplied and owned by the girls and that any information on their online profile was checked by the girls before it was put on the website.

Prosecutors allege McKinlay, who was detained at an address in Southampton in July 2011, banked more than £350,000 in profits from the racket.

McKinlay, now of Ladywell Grove, Lewisham, southeast London, denies controlling prostitution for gain and converting criminal property between December 2008 and July 2011.

The trial continues.