Slaver trial comes to a grinding halt amid COVID-19 scare


A woman accused of torturing a slave to the point of collapse has delayed her Supreme Court of Victoria trial amid claims she is sick. 

The woman, who cannot be named due to a court imposed gag order, is accused alongside her husband of holding an elderly woman captive as a slave for eight years. 

On Wednesday, jurors watched on as the accused slaver grabbed at her right ear and appeared unsteady from her position in the makeshift prison dock in Melbourne.  

The husband and wife, whose home she was found at, are accused of intentionally possessing the woman as a slave between July 2007 and July 2015

The husband and wife, whose home she was found at, are accused of intentionally possessing the woman as a slave between July 2007 and July 2015

The trial, which has been going for more than a month, had been expected to draw to its conclusion early next week. 

Justice John Champion told the jurors they had been concerned both the woman and her partner had contracted COVID-19 after reporting symptoms of the deadly virus. 

Both were tested last weekend and had come-up negative, the jury was informed. 

‘However it was evident earlier in the week that she appeared to be unwell and there was coughing and so on going on. But it’s reached a point today where it appears to me that she is unwell,’ Justice Champion said. 

The woman was expected to see a doctor this afternoon in the hope the trial could recommence as early as Thursday morning.

The couple has been accused of committing ‘crimes against humanity’ by keeping the woman captive and working her near to death. 

The jury has heard allegations their slave had ‘hot curries’ poured over her head as punishment. 

The elderly woman was found by paramedics in 2015 in a pool of her own urine and weighing just 40kg. 

A woman accused of being a slave driver would slash her servant with a knife if she was not satisfied with her work, a jury has heard

A woman accused of being a slave driver would slash her servant with a knife if she was not satisfied with her work, a jury has heard

A man accused of being a slaver enters the Supreme Court of Victoria. He has been accused of sitting back and allowing his wife to torment their elderly slave

A man accused of being a slaver enters the Supreme Court of Victoria. He has been accused of sitting back and allowing his wife to torment their elderly slave

Speaking to a federal agent, the alleged victim outlined the allegations in six recorded interviews. 

‘She’ll be drinking hot coffee and then she will just, you know, pour it on my face … and then she will be grab the gravy and pour it on my head,’ the woman said. 

‘She will say ‘curries not nice’ and then she will just throw it on me.’

As the trial continues, more shocking allegations about the woman’s years of torment have been put on display for the jury. 

‘Whatever I have told you about, three quarter of it I didn’t tell you. So I have just hidden all that and told you only a few things,’ she warned the agent. 

The jury heard the woman, speaking through a Tamil interpreter, explain how she was routinely ‘tortured’ by her female captor while her husband and children watched on. 

The jury has heard accusations the female slaver would cut her alleged slave with a knife when she was displeased with her work. 

‘Yes, here, like, she will be there when I’m doing the work, and then if she has a knife she will just cut here, the blood will pour down. If she has got a stick, she will beat me,’ the woman said. 

The woman twice came to Melbourne from her home in Tamil Nadu, in southern India, to care for the couple's three children (pictured), then disappeared for eight years, the court heard

The woman twice came to Melbourne from her home in Tamil Nadu, in southern India, to care for the couple’s three children (pictured), then disappeared for eight years, the court heard

‘She would charge at me, hit me with hands, even my earrings would break, used to hit me like that, with the plate she would [hit/bang] on head repeatedly, take knife and cut (indistinct) then will pick up a stick and beat on the arms and legs, I can’t bear it, blood will pour down …  I can’t catch a bus and go away or just [walk/run] away, brought me here, committing all this (injustice), torture.’

In another act of alleged cruelty, the woman, who was aged in her 60s and spoke no English, claimed she was forced to go out grocery shopping in the early hours of the morning by her female captor. 

‘Fifty dollars she gave me, and she said to go and buy the yoghurt. But how would I go there? I don’t know, I don’t know how to talk to anyone, and she said to go and get it,’ the woman said. 

Cold and frightened, the woman claimed she was made to sit outside alone in the dark for hours outside the couple’s Glen Waverley home before she was savagely beaten.

‘She pulled me in again, and then she put me in the computer room, and then she started stamping on me and she was kicking me,’ she said. 

Not even the woman’s husband, himself an accused slaver, could stop the beatings, the jury heard. 

The female slaver has been accused of throwing things when unhappy with her alleged slave

The female slaver has been accused of throwing things when unhappy with her alleged slave

An alleged slaver leaves  court in 2017. She faces years behind bars if convicted of the 'crime against humanity'

An alleged slaver leaves  court in 2017. She faces years behind bars if convicted of the ‘crime against humanity’

The husband and wife have pleaded not guilty to intentionally keeping the woman as a slave between July 2007 and July 2015.  

The woman was discovered after she collapsed inside the couple’s home and they called her an ambulance. 

Traumatised and with serious medical conditions, she spent more than two months in hospital recovering – and for much of that time nobody knew her real identity.

The female accused’s barrister, Dr Gideon Boas, had earlier told the jury his client was innocent of the alleged crime. 

He claimed the only crime his client had committed was harbouring the woman after her one-month travel visa had expired. 

‘There is very much another side to the story,’ Dr Boas said. 

The Case Against Alleged Slavers 

A couple accused of keeping an Indian woman as a slave before she was discovered with no teeth and emaciated with sepsis claimed she was treated ‘like a king’. 

The couple are both charged with intentionally possessing a slave and intentionally exercising the right of ownership over a slave between 2007 and 2015. 

The pair claim they have been framed and have become embroiled in an elaborate extortion attempt. 

Last week, the Supreme Court of Victoria heard the couple had been heard by police discussing the allegations over phone taps. 

‘“It seems the suggestion is a letter would be produced which would suggest an extortion attempt had been made to extort 10 laks, the equivalent of $18,000 or $19,000 in order to drop the allegations,’  Prosecutor Richard Maidment told jurors.

The court has heard the alleged victim had no teeth when found by police in 2015. 

When asked why by police, her alleged keeper claimed she had pulled them out herself and ate only mash.

The woman had allegedly been enslaved after two previous visits with the family. 

The alleged slave was found after she became sick and the woman called her an ambulance. 

Paramedics found her shivering in a pool of urine in the bathroom. 

 

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