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Deaf girl tells court the details of her life 'kept as a slave in cellar'

A deaf and mute woman who claims she was kept in a cellar and treated as a virtual slave for almost a decade told a court of her former life in terrible conditions sleeping on a concrete floor.

The orphaned youth from Pakistan gave evidence via a video-link to the courtroom, using sign-language to answer questions as she was shown photos of the inside of the cellar. Claiming she was locked in a cellar each night and by day forced to work cooking and cleaning for no money, the woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, pointed out a camp bed where she said she slept and a radiator she used to keep warm.

Her alleged abusers were Ilyas Ashar, 83, pictured, and his 66-year-old wife, Tallat Ashar. Both deny charges of false imprisonment, human trafficking, sexual offences, violence and benefit fraud.

They are accused of abusing the woman, now aged between 19 and 21, at their home in Eccles, Salford, Greater Manchester, after bringing her into Britain from Pakistan in June 2000. The trial, now in its third week, has heard claims the woman was beaten regularly, repeatedly raped by Ilyas Ashar and kept a virtual prisoner to work for the family, never having gone to school and taught only to sign her name – for the purposes of a benefits scam.

Yesterday she told the jury at Minshull Street Crown Court in Manchester that she would at times also sleep on a sofa in the cellar, but for some time while living with the Ashars, was ordered not to use the sofa and instead told to sleep on a sheet on the concrete floor of the cellar. Peter Cadwallader, prosecuting, asked why she slept on the floor beside the settee.

"The old woman [Mrs Ashar]," she replied through the sign-language interpreter. "I was told to sleep on the floor, I had to sleep on the floor and that's what I did."

The trial continues.