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The terrified and illiterate Indian victim, who was beaten, raped and given out of date food that made her ill, made desperate pleas for help to Hertfordshire police as well as charities and other state agencies.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
people
Life and Style
healthMovember isn't about a moustache trend, it saves lives
News
people
Life and Style
food + drinkFrom Mediterranean Tomato Tart to Raw Caramel Peanut Pie
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Armstrong, left, and Bain's writing credits include Peep Show, Fresh Meat, and The Old Guys
TVThe pair have presented their view of 21st-century foibles in shows such as Peep Show and Fresh Meat
Arts and Entertainment
Keys to success: Andrew and Julian Lloyd Webber
arts + entsMrs Bach had too many kids to write the great man's music, says Julian Lloyd Webber
Arts and Entertainment
Hand out press photograph/film still from the movie Mad Max Fury Road (Downloaded from the Warner Bro's media site/Jasin Boland/© 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
films'You have to try everything and it’s all a process of elimination, but ultimately you find your path'
Extras
Boys to men: there’s nothing wrong with traditional ‘manly’ things, until masculinity is used to exclude people
indybest13 best grooming essentials
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films
books

New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site on Friday

News
Russia Today’s new UK channel began broadcasting yesterday. Discussions so far have included why Britons see Russia as ‘the bad guy’
news

New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch at the premiere of The Imitation Game at the BFI London Film Festival
filmsKeira Knightley tried to miss The Imitation Game premiere to watch Bake Off
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Bryan Adams' heartstopping images of wounded British soldiers to go on show at Somerset House

Bryan Adams' images of wounded soldiers

Taken over the course of four years, Adams' portraits are an astonishing document of the aftermath of war
The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities