It is alleged that Elizabeth Chandler, 38, of New Cross, south-east London, caused actual bodily harm to domestic servants she brought to Britain from Nigeria to look after her mother. She is also charged with bringing one of the women into Britain illegally.
Howard Vagg, for the prosecution, said Mrs Chandler encouraged Francisca Ifekaozor, 26, and Florence Mokolo, 22, to leave Nigeria and work for her with promises that they could continue their education. In Miss Mokolo's case, he said, Mrs Chandler offered a wage of pounds 50 a month.
Both were to become victims of violence and abuse, the court was told. Mrs Mokolo, was 'taken to the house, made to get up at 4.30am, and worked till 5.30pm'.
Mr Vagg said: 'She was then given a bit of food, some soup, some rice, and then back to work till midnight. She was allowed two slices of bread at midday. It wasn't long before she was treated with violence . . . (Mrs Chandler) was treating them virtually as slaves.'
The court was told that Mrs Chandler took to beating both women with the heel of her shoe. Their mistreatment was eventually 'brought to the attention of the police by the agency of a national newspaper', referring to an investigation in the Independent.
Ms Ifekaozor told the court she arrived in London from Lagos in June 1989. 'I was happy. Living in England was a dream to me. I was delighted,' she said.
After starting the job, however, she was made to work continuously and often beaten. Eight months later, her life had become a misery. 'The world was just blank for me,' she said.
Finally, on 9 February 1991, the court was told, Ms Ifekaozor fled from the house by jumping from a window after Mrs Chandler hit her over the head, causing a cut.
She was taken to Guy's Hospital where stitches were inserted in her head wound; accommodation was found for her at a women's refuge.
Mrs Chandler denies the charges. The trial continues today.Reuse content