HIV expert kept woman as slave
Thursday 11 August 2011
An HIV expert was jailed today after being convicted of keeping a 21-year-old woman as a slave.
Rebecca Balira, 45, was convicted of keeping Methodia Mathias in servitude, and a charge of assaulting her, after a trial at Southwark Crown Court.
Balira, of Waterside Close, Thamesmead, south east London, was today jailed for a total of six months and ordered to pay Ms Mathias £3,000 in compensation, a court official confirmed.
Ms Mathias, 21, claimed Balira brought her from her native Tanzania then kept her in servitude.
The court heard Ms Mathias stayed with Balira's relatives in Dar es Salaam and they paid for her UK visa applications, the third of which was successful, as well as a return flight to Britain.
But she claimed when she came to the UK she was kept as a slave in a flat in Thamesmead.
She said on one occasion Balira got so angry that she cut her bra with a pair of scissors and injured her in the process.
But Balira maintained that in the the row over money missing from a coin box in September last year, she only pulled on Ms Mathias's bra and it snapped, and denied using scissors.
During the trial the court heard the 21-year-old's friend Beatrice Kosgei contacted the charity Kalayaan, which represents migrant domestic workers, to get help.
Today Kate Roberts, from the charity, said: "We are obviously pleased in cases where there is justice for domestic workers.
"But cases such as these do highlight our concerns that instances of such abuse will increase if the protections that are currently maintained within the migration domestic worker visa are removed."
Balira was cleared of a charge of trafficking a person into the UK for exploitation and one other count of common assault.
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