Raped, beaten, and enslaved for years – and handed back to her tormentors when she went to beg police for help

 

A modern-day slave passed between three middle-class families during years of horrific abuse is suing a police force that returned her to one of her tormentors.

The terrified and illiterate Indian victim, who was beaten, raped and given out of date food that made her ill, made desperate pleas for help to Hertfordshire police as well as charities and other state agencies. But when officers from the force spoke to her, one of her powerful and well-connected abusers was used as an interpreter.

After she was handed back to her slave master, the victim was attacked, threatened with a knife and told she would be buried in the back garden of their multi-million pound luxury home for spoiling the family name.

The treatment of the 40-year-old woman can be revealed today as three people – a wealthy optician, a butcher and a secretary – were convicted of her abuse that spanned more than three years. During that time that she was passed like a chattel between the families. She was kept a prisoner, given virtually no money and had her passport confiscated. However, when she fled, her pleas went ignored by police and other organisations on at least 12 occasions, according to court documents.

The woman's ordeal ended only after she was taken in by a migrant workers' charity and human rights' group Liberty took up her case.

"Various state agencies failed her… ignoring her repeated pleas for help, not adhering to their own investigative practice and it could be said ignoring the obvious," Caroline Haughey, counsel for the prosecution, told Croydon Crown Court.

The woman, described as one of society's most vulnerable people, came to Britain in 2005 to try to make a better life and to send money to her family in Hyderabad. But when she sought help she was threatened by her keepers, rebuffed or failed to make herself understood by authorities. In one case, a professional interpreter told a police officer investigating the case: "She's telling a lot of lies – it's common in her country," the court heard.

Police investigated while she was with three different families but critics say that the incidents did not appear to have been connected.

She was first taken to hospital in 2006 with a gashed foot after her 'employer' Shamina Yousuf, 33, hurled a cup at her. However, no action was taken after she was bullied her into not pursuing matters. She fled after more than two years but returned to work for other relatives of the family to try to secure the return of her passport.

She stayed in a one-room flat in St John's Wood making sandwiches in the shop below for £2-an-hour. She was raped by the husband, butcher Enkarta Balapovi, on several occasions.The woman finally moved to the home of an acquaintance, Shashi Obhrai and her IT consultant husband Balram, who lived on a private estate in Middlesex. She was forced to work seven days a week, 17-hours-a-day, cooking and cleaning for eight family members. .She escaped and her case was passed to Scotland Yard's trafficking unit which brought her abusers to justice.

Obhrai, 54, of Moor Park, Middlesex and Yousuf, 33, of Edgware, north London, were both convicted yesterday of assault. Obhrai, an optician, was additionally convicted of threats to kill. Balapovi, 54, of St John's Wood, northwest London, was convicted of rape by a jury at Croydon Crown Court. They will be sentenced next month. Two other defendants were acquitted. The victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons, has been left in a wheelchair in part because of the injuries sustained at the hands of her abusers. She has lodged a claim against the Hertfordshire force which initially investigated the case.

Corinna Ferguson, legal Officer for Liberty, said: "This trial may not have taken place at all had Liberty not reminded the police of their obligations towards victims under the Human Rights Act." Hertfordshire police said it would be "inappropriate to comment" while elements related to the case were still subject to criminal and civil process.

News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Sport
New Real Madrid signing James Rodríguez with club president Florentino Perez
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Travel
Hotel Tour d’Auvergne in Paris launches pay-what-you-want
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn