Woman convicted of assaulting 'slaves'

A WOMAN exposed by the Independent as having enslaved two young women from Nigeria was yesterday convicted of assaulting them and assisting in illegally bringing one of them into the country.

Elizabeth Chandler, a former nurse from New Cross, south London, attacked Francisca Ifekaozor, 26, and Florence Mokolo, 22, while they were looking after her sick mother.

It was alleged during the trial at Middlesex Crown Court that the women were not allowed outdoors alone, were regularly beaten with a shoe, one had boiling water thrown at her and both were made to work long hours for no pay.

Assistant Recorder Timothy Pontius deferred sentencing for probationary reports, but he told Crispian Cartwright, counsel for Chandler, that he 'took a very serious view of (her) wholly flagrant attempt at subversion of the immigration laws' when she brought Ms Mokolo into Britain using Ms Ifekaozor's passport.

Ms Ifekaozor had come to England with Chandler in June 1989 with the unfulfilled promise that she would be paid for caring for Chandler's mother, a stroke victim, and given the opportunity to study.

On 6 February 1990, following months of 'assault and abuse', Ms Ifekaozor made her escape through a bathroom window after being hit on the head with a baby alarm by Chandler.

The court heard that Chandler had used Ms Ifekaozor's temporary residency status as a tool to make her subservient - but she had earlier intercepted a letter from the Home Office allowing Ms Ifekaozor to stay in the country. Ms Ifekaozor never saw the letter and was never given access to her own passport.

In April 1991, the court was told, Chandler brought Ms Mokolo into the country with the promise of pounds 50 a month and enrolment on a hairdressing course. Again, neither materialised but the work regime was similar to that of Ms Ifekaozor's. On one occasion, Ms Mokolo said deep wounds were inflicted on her arm by Chandler wielding a shoe.

Howard Vagg, for the prosecution, said that Chandler surrendered photocopies of the passport to which Ms Ifekaozor had never had access, showing that it had been used to bring someone into Britain on 13 April 1991. Witnesses said Ms Ifekaozor was in Britain then, but Chandler said she returned - alone - from a trip to Nigeria on that day. Ms Mokolo said the trip, and passport, were used to secure her entry into the country.