Former shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper has called for a full criminal investigation into the case of a woman who was held as a sex slave for 13 years
She told the Mirror: “This case is horrifying. With the details that have emerged over the past few days it is clear that we need a full criminal investigation into this case.”
The Mirror told today how for 13 long years Anna Ruston – not her real name – was held prisoner in the Midlands inside her Asian taxi driver kidnapper’s home, relentlessly beaten and used as a sex slave.
She gave birth to four children, the result of repeated rapes, and said the babies were later be sold on by her captor.
As part of her therapy, Anna has written her story in new book, Secret Slave, but has never felt strong enough to give evidence to bring her captor to justice. The police have tried to change her mind, even revealing a later victim is willing to speak out if she does.
Mrs Cooper, chair of the powerful Commons Home Affairs Committee, said that as well as her captor, those who bought Anna’s children could be criminally responsible too.
She said: “This horror story of exploitation and modern slavery is something we would never expect to see in Britain in the 21st century but when these kinds of stories emerge, they should be treated with the utmost seriousness.
“There is enough information here that the police need to investigate everything that happened.”
She added: “The buying and selling of children is appalling and clearly illegal.
“As part of the investigation, the police need to find out what has happened to the children referred to in this case, whether anyone else has committed a crime in taking them and whether they are safe – putting the rights and interests of those children first.”
Anna has said she was treated like a “baby machine” and then forced to sign over all her rights to the babies she had in captivity to the kidnapper she called Malik.
Now aged 44 and a mum to four children born after she escaped, she says: “A few weeks after my escape, I received a letter of agreement from Malik’s solicitor that he wanted me to sign.
“I was so frightened of the consequences, as he had threatened to get a hit-man to kneecap me, that I signed it to give all parental responsibility to him.
“I understood that if I signed the letter, it would be forever. Signing it made me feel that everything had gone – the children had gone and he had gone from my life.
“I thought if I gave him everything he wanted, then he would go and I would be free of him. I thought it would get rid of him, but it didn’t. He’s still victimising me in my head, he still has a hold over me, I haven’t been able to have a normal life yet … he’s winning all the time.”
She adds: “The children were never mine anyway – I was just a baby machine. They knew what they wanted me for. They knew I was young and vulnerable. They knew how many times I had got pregnant, with so many miscarriages as well, caused by the physical and sexual abuse.
“They wanted me to have more babies for them to take away. Nobody will know, unless it’s happened to them, how heart-breaking it is to have a baby inside you for 9 months, then to have it physically ripped out of your arms and you will never see it again.”
She also reveals the heartbreaking reason she will never try to find her four children, who are now grown up.
“Because I was just a machine,” she says. “I gave birth to them, but I was never allowed to be a mother to them.
“They don’t know me as their mother. They will have been brainwashed. I’m non-existent to them.
“I don’t want them to ever know me. It would affect too many people. It’s safer how it is.”
Although Anna has never felt strong enough to bring her captor to justice, she urges other women in a similar situation to tell someone.
She says: “People may judge me for everything that happened to me, but they cannot understand without being in my shoes all those years and and living that nightmare and feel what I still feel – ashamed and dirty.
“If anyone out there has gone through anything like this I advise tell them to please tell someone. It’s taken me a long time to tell my story – I wanted to take it to my grave.”
The government passed the Modern Slavery Act last year to give authorities new powers to tackle the scourge of slavery, including life sentences for offenders.
MPs voiced their shock after the Mirror revealed Anna’s experiences yesterday.
Labour’s Jess Phillips, a former domestic violence refuge manager, tweeted: “I’ve met many women trafficked and enslaved for sex. It’s one of the main reasons I campaign for criminalising people who buy sex.
“If you think you’re innocently buying sex guarantee me you ask the person you are about to have sex with if she needs you to help her escape.”
Fellow Labour MP Carolyn Harris said: “This is happening in the UK in 2016. We have a moral and statutory duty to help victims.”
Every allegation of slavery must be investigated
By Kevin Hyland, Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner
Anna’s account is truly shocking. Most people struggle to believe that something like that could happen in the UK in the 20th or 21st century, but cases like this can and do still slip below the radar.
I would think it is almost essential that we find out what has happened to these four children, because they are victims of this crime too. We don’t know whether they are still in this country, whether they are living in slavery, or even whether they are still alive.
There are a number of cases where we see children trafficking to or from the UK having undergone dreadful treatment, who end up running cannabis farms or exploited in other ways.
We need to accept that modern slavery is one of the most violent, serious crimes happening today. The Prime Minister has called it the great rights issue of our time and I agree with her.
The Government estimates that there are up to 13,000 people living in modern slavery in the UK and this year we will have approaching 4,000 cases reported.
Yet only one in four allegations ever results in a crime reported being created. We need to make sure that in 2017 every allegation of slavery ends up in an investigation.
I am seeing more police resources put into this, but I still need to see far more effort from law enforcement agencies. There is a precedent for this. I was a police officer for 30 years and when I started the response to domestic violence was pretty poor, but now the police are very proactive and put protection measures in place for the victims, who themselves are very unlikely to come forward.
We need a similar approach to modern slavery. The police also need to use the same techniques they frequently use to tackle other crimes, like drug smuggling and fire arms dealing to build a case even when a victim doesn’t feel able to come forward and cooperate with their enquires.