An alleged people trafficker cut the chest of a vulnerable 14-year-old girl with a razor during a series of "juju" witchcraft rituals aimed at terrifying young recruits into silence before selling them into prostitution across Europe, a court heard yesterday.
Osezua Osolase recruited and raped impoverished young Nigerian orphans and forced them to undergo West African rituals in which hair, nails and blood were removed to "cast a spell" over them and ensure their obedience, Canterbury Crown Court was told.
Mr Osolase, a Nigerian living in Northfleet, Kent, told one of three young victims – who overheard him trying to sell her off for €70,000 – that he had been bringing girls into Britain for 15 years, the court heard.
The 42-year-old then used a series of fake identities, addresses and falsified passports for the trafficked girls and escorted them on budget airlines to cities in Europe to work in the vice trade, said Ms Sarah Ellis, prosecuting.
The court heard that Mr Osolase, posing as a man named Victor, picked up one homeless 16-year-old girl sleeping rough in Lagos and took her to a "place of witchcraft" in the city to establish his control over her.
The teenager – who had been promised an education in Britain – was given a mixture consisting of what appeared to be blood and cloth and told to bathe in it and wrap the cloth around her. As "Victor" watched, a man cut hair from her armpits, some of her finger and toenails and took blood from her hand, said Ms Ellis.
She was told that the body parts taken in the ritual would be used to find and kill her if ever she tried to run away or failed to repay "Victor", the court heard.
"Those rituals are very much about invisible power. They involved the use of objects in order to curse or cast a spell. They are intended to terrify," said Ms Ellis. "They [the body parts] are thought to embody the essence of the owner. When taken, they will allow control at whatever distance."
The jury was shown pictures of the 14-year-old girl, who said that Mr Osolase cut her chest and shoulders with a razor and rubbed black powder into the wounds after she was brought to Britain. "It meant she was carrying the curse inside her," said Ms Ellis.
The teenager was ordered to make an oath of loyalty to Mr Osolase, which if she broke would mean she would not have children, go mad and die, the court heard. The rituals were "an effort to ensure that they would do as they were told … and would never reveal the truth about what really happened to them for fear of death or serious harm," said Ms Ellis.
Mr Osolase was said to have recruited some of the girls from his home country. The court heard that three girls were brought to Britain where he kept them under lock and key and sexually abused them, the court heard. One girl overheard Mr Osolase on the telephone apparently haggling with someone over payment.
The court heard that Mr Osolase had a "double life" married to a German woman – which allowed him freedom to travel across Europe – while also having a Nigerian partner. He had sought to escort the three girls, aged 14, 16, and 17, to Spain and Italy to work as prostitutes, Ms Ellis said. He was arrested twice at Stansted airport before they managed to leave the country, the court heard. Mr Osolase, a former security guard, denies charges that include trafficking, rape, and sexual assault. The trial continues.