An Indian woman who was kept as a slave and passed between three middle class families has spoken of her traumatic ordeal where she was beaten, burned and raped. The 40-year-old Indian woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was kept prisoner for six months by the Obhrai family on their £2million estate in Middlesex.
She was passed between two other families – who cannot be named for legal reasons – where she was forced to work for £2 an hour and raped several times by butcher Enkarta Balapovi. Her passport was taken away and she was forced to work 17-hour shifts seven days a week, fed only on out-of-date food and the chewed leftovers of their three children.
When the woman, who could only speak Hindi, tried to contact police on multiple occasions but she was returned to her abusers and they were used as interpreters. The woman, who is illiterate, came to Britain in 2005 in search of a better life, but was left wheelchair-bound after being injured so badly by her ’employers’ over a three-year period.
Shashi Obhrai acted as the woman’s master and on one occasion beat her with a rolling pin because she did not like the way she made chapattis. The victim was left with scars on her body from the fingernails of Obhrai, who also dragged her down stairs, burned her with an iron and threatened to stab her with insulin needles.
On another occasion the victim was too dizzy to cook because she was so underfed, so her masters beat her until she was sick and made her clear up the vomit with her own clothes. ‘They have made my life hell. I have suffered with depression and sleepless nights for a very long time. I have to take medication so that I can sleep.
‘They have treated me so badly that I worry at night that they will come for me. Shashi Obhrai put a hot iron on my arm when I asked her for my earnings to be paid,’ The Independent reported. Over the three years she was kept as a slave, she was paid just £2,000, which she sent back to her family in Hyderabad. Authorities estimate that she should have earned £170,000 during that time, considering the long hours she was forced to work.
She was first taken to hospital in 2006 when her then ’employer’ Shamina Yousuf, 33, hurled a cup at her and slashed open her foot. The woman did not know how to call 999 until 2007, but faced language barriers when she did.
She made repeated calls on one day, but by the time Hertfordshire Police arrived the Obhrais were home and she could not speak to them. Another time she showed police a jar of unrecognisable slop she had been given to eat, and she was taken to hospital.
Enkarta Balapove (left) was convicted of rape and Shamina Yousef was convcited of assaulting the woman
But after being discharged from hospital she was returend to Obhrai, who acted as her interpreter, took her home in tears, and then threatened to kill her. Obhrai held a knife to her neck and told her she had spoiled the family name and would be buried in the garden and no one would ever know. She attempted to contact police and other organisations at least a dozen times but her pleas were ignored, Croydon Crown Court heard.
On one occasion a professional interpreter told police she was telling lies, and that this was common in India. Prosecuting, Caroline Haughley said: ‘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.’
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 is suing the Hertfordshire force which initially investigated the case. Corinna Ferguson, legal Officer for Liberty, told The Independent: ‘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 aspects of the case were still subject to criminal and civil process.