Three people who physically abused, raped and threatened to kill a woman have been convicted following an in-depth investigation by the MPS Trafficking and Prostitution Unit (TPU).
Shashi Kala Obhrai, a 54 year old woman and an optician, of Pembroke Road, Moor Park, Northwood, Middlesex was convicted of ABH and making a threat to kill.
Shamina Yousuf, a 33 year old woman and a secretary, of North Road, Edgware Middlesex was convicted of ABH.
Enkarta Balapovi, 54, male a butcher, of Charlburt Street, St Johns Wood NW8 was convicted of five counts of rape.
The victim – believed to be about 40-years-old – left her husband and children in Hyderabad, India, in 2005 to earn better money for them as a nanny in the UK.
The woman spoke no English when she arrived so she was heavily reliant on others to help with visa applications. She initially worked for Shamina Yousuf and Yousuf's husband at their family home in Pavillion Way, Edgware.
The now-divorced couple suffered marital problems and Yousuf took her anger out on the victim by throwing a mug at her foot, inflicting a two-inch gash.
Yousuf had the victim's passport and refused to give it to her, so the victim felt she had no choice but to stay with her for almost three years, until it was arranged for her to work for Enkarta Balapovi, a butcher, and his partner in their single-room flat in Charlburt Street, St Johns Wood, NW8.
Again, the victim was not given her passport. She worked for them for four months, her duties including housekeeping and massaging Balapovi's feet. She was made to sleep on the hard kitchen floor, between a fridge and washbasin, while Balapovi and his wife had a double bed.
Balapovi – who the victim knew as Salim – unsuccessfully tried to seduce the victim, so on numerous occasions he raped her. Once, he grabbed her by her hair and kissed her so violently that he cut her lips.
He often used her visa and passport as a means to try and make her submit – once he told her that if she stripped, he would give her a visa; another time he tauntingly asked her whether she wanted her passport or not.
Around October 2007, it was arranged for the victim to work for Shashi Obhrai, an optician who also ran a visa service – and her husband at their home in Moor Park, Northwood, Middlesex. Again, she was not given her passport but was told that Shashi would arrange her visa renewal.
The victim was forbidden to leave the house and made to work 6am to 11pm, with no breaks, seven days a week. This included cooking, cleaning, ironing and looking after the Obhrais' three children and their mothers. Over the six months the victim worked there, Shashi Obhrai subjected her to horrendous physical abuse including: burning her with an iron; threatening to hurt her with insulin needles; hitting her over the head with a rolling pin because Shashi didn't like how she made chapattis; beating her on the back with high heel shoes until she was sick; attacking the victim with her nails, leaving scars; forcing the teeth of a comb into her head; and pushing/dragging her by her hair down the stairs.
The victim was never given a proper meal, instead being forced to eat out of date food that made her ill and the spat-out leftovers of Obhrai's children.
Once, the victim was too dizzy from hunger to cook, so Obhrai beat her. The victim threw up and Obhrai made her mop up the vomit with her own clothes.
Another day the victim fled the house and made it to a help centre but Obhrai found her and took her back to the house. In the early hours of the next morning, Obhrai came to her, held a kitchen knife to her neck and threatened to kill her.
Eventually, the victim successfully escaped and her case was referred to the Trafficking and Prostitution Unit (TPU). A month into their investigation, officers arrested Yousef and Obhrai and embarked on a lengthy evidence-gathering process which involved gaining the permission of Indian authorities to interview witnesses in Hyderabad.
In March 2012 they arrested Balapovi and by May that year they had gathered sufficient evidence to charge all the defendants.
In the course of their investigation, working with two officers from Hertfordshire Police, the TPU took statements from 89 witnesses. The trial began in February this year, when officers travelled to Hyderabad to oversee some of these witnesses giving evidence to Croydon Crown Court via live video link.
This is the first time that the TPU has gone to India to obtain evidence.
The defendants were found guilty by the jury after a six week-long trial and three days of deliberation. They are scheduled to appear for sentencing at Croydon Crown Court on 16th May.
DCI Nick Sumner of the Trafficking and Prostitution Unit, said: "This victim came to the UK to earn enough money to provide her children back in India with a better life, but instead the defendants made her own life a living hell for over three years. They controlled her by taking her passport and taking advantage of her lack of English and subsequent dependency on them for help with her visa. With the victim in their power, they abused her in every possible way.
"She is deeply traumatised yet found the courage to seek help and face her abusers in court because she does not want these people to hurt anyone else.”
The victim said: "I have had a really bad experience with these people. 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 get some sleep. They have treated me so badly that I worry at night that they will come for me.
"When Salim [Balapovi] used to have sex with me, my whole body used to ache. I can't move on – he raped me.”
She went on to say that Shashi Obhrai put a hot iron on her arm when she asked her for her earnings to be paid. “She told me that she would do it. I told her that the iron was on and she said, 'Have a look, is it hot or not?', and put the iron on me,” the victim said. “"These people are dangerous they have ruined my life and kept me away from my children. Each should be punished for their wrongdoings."