An elderly Indian woman allegedly held captive as a slave for eight years claims she would sleep just one hour a night and was forbidden from speaking.
The woman, who along with the couple accused of keeping her a slave cannot be named due to a court-imposed gag order, has appeared on video before a Supreme Court of Victoria jury in Melbourne.
Interviewed by an Australian Federal Police detective from her hospital bed in 2015, the woman claimed her alleged masters treated her cruelly and worked her tirelessly.
A woman accused of being a slave driver would ‘throw things’ if she was not satisfied with the quality of her alleged slave’s work
A man accused of being a slaver enters the Supreme Court of Victoria
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
‘No rest, no rest at all,’ the woman repeated through a Tamil interpreter.
The couple are accused of ‘crimes against humanity’ by allegedly keeping the woman a slave for eight years.
On Friday, the jury was played the beginning of six video-recorded interviews the woman participated in.
The woman told police she had only agreed to come to Australia and work for the couple so she could afford to get herself a home back in India and look after herself in her golden years.
Instead, the jury heard the couple only sent three payments back to her family in India over the eight years she toiled for the family.
The woman claimed she would cook and clean constantly for the couple and their three small children.
If she failed to meet her female keeper’s expectations, ‘she would throw things around’, the woman told police.
Appearing gaunt, dishevelled and malnourished, the toothless woman claimed she would rarely step outside the front door of the couple’s house.
And when she did, it was only to act as a pack horse for her mistress on shopping expeditions.
Instead, the alleged slave would only feel the sun against her skin while hanging washing in the backyard of the couple’s Mount Waverley home.
The woman told police she was forbidden from speaking to anyone who visited the house.
‘I was not allowed to speak,’ she said.
The female slaver has been accused of throwing things when unhappy with her alleged slave
The couple accused of imprisoning her allegedly lied about how they knew her when she collapsed in their Melbourne home, a court heard
When the family would go on their yearly month-long visits to India, the woman claimed they would lock her inside the house without a key.
During her month in exile, the woman claimed to live off portions of bread and rice.
While the family were away, she would enjoy watching the cricket on the television.
Upon the couple’s return, they would ask their alleged slave ‘hundreds of questions’.
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 court heard the woman would rarely bathe herself and struggled to digest food at all.
The woman was discovered in 2015 after she collapsed inside the couple’s home.
She had been found in a pool of her own urine weighing just 40kg with a temperature of just 28.5C and suffering from sepsis.
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 husband and wife have pleaded not guilty to intentionally keeping the woman as a slave between July 2007 and July 2015.
The woman’s barrister, Dr Gideon Boas, had earlier told the jury his client actually considered the woman as family and referred to her affectionately as ‘grandmother’.
He claimed the only crime his client had committed was harbouring the woman after the one-month travel visa had expired.
It was fear of prosecution over the visa violation that not only caused the woman to lie to authorities, but the alleged victim to lie about her captivity, the court heard.
Dr Boas said the alleged victim had ‘crucial motivation’ to make up the story after being questioned by police and Australian Border Force officers.
‘There is very much another side to the story,’ Dr Boas said.
An alleged slaver leaves court in 2017. She faces years behind bars if convicted of the ‘crime against humanity’
The alleged slaver denies the allegations and claims her supposed victim made up the story to save her own skin
The experienced barrister warned the jury to watch the alleged victim closely as she provided her evidence to the court.
‘Her honesty and reliability is crucial,’ Dr Boas said. ‘Even if some of it stacks up, you need to determine if it amounts to slavery.’
Dr Boas claimed the alleged victim’s story had changed ‘dramatically’ and he urged the jury to judge is she was a ‘reliable storyteller’.
‘She is the heart of this case,’ he said.
The trial continues.
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.
On Thursday, 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.
The trial continues.