‘I was kidnapped and thrust into sordid life of rape, beatings and threats’ - sex trafficking victim tells how she was forced into prostitution

A sex trafficking survivor who escaped from her captors in Northern Ireland is still trying to secure compensation for her ordeal – 11 years after her escape.

Tuesday, 23rd February 2021, 6:30 am
Updated Thursday, 10th June 2021, 9:29 am

Anna, not her real name, was taken captive by a Romanian gang in London in March 2011. The News Letter has seen a certificate from the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) which confirms she is a victim of human trafficking.

In 2011 she was living in London and was walking home from work when she was grabbed from behind and forced into a car. The gang took her identification and warned that if she tried to escape they would come for her family in Romania.

“A woman in the car said she was from the next village to my family,” said Anna, who was 22 at the time.

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A woman, centre, is lead away by police ,after they raided a house during an operation to rescue a number of women

She believes they had been stalking her for some time.

As they drove to Luton Airport the woman told her: “If you run I will make sure that your parents are killed. If you say anything in the airport I will kill you right there.”

Anna hoped she could run at Galway Airport, but it was so small that as soon as she got out of the plane they were outside and met by two accomplices.

She was driven to a flat where she was held down, beaten and raped.

“I fainted and woke up in a cold shower,” she said. “In the first weeks they brought in customers that were their friends, all nationalities. Nobody ever asked, ‘Are you okay?’ I was beaten in front of the clients. They all knew what was happening.”

She was moved around to Galway, Limerick and Belfast.

Sobbing, she said she believes the men who paid to use her came from all walks of life – civil servants, politicians and wealthy businessmen.

She escaped several times but the gang sent messages to her via social media threatening to murder her and her family. Her mother in Romania said she was getting threatening phone calls and had strange cars parked outside. Friends in London had been warned not to help on pain of death. She felt she had no choice but to return.

However, nine months after her kidnapping she escaped to a rival Irish gang where she was treated much better and was later able to leave the sex trade. But she still suffers greatly from the ordeal.

“I can’t sleep at night and have massive migraines, post-traumatic stress disorder and depression,” she said. “My eyes are so damaged that I will probably go blind in 20 years. Last year I had 12 broken teeth replaced.”

Two of the gang were later jailed in Stockholm and Belfast. A book has now been written about her life, ‘Slave’ by Jason Johnson, which has been turned into a BBC film.

Despite the physical and psychological injuries, she is now working full time and studying for a law degree.

In 2014 she applied for compensation under The NI Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme 2009, through Victim Support NI (VSNI). It is funded by the Department of Justice (DoJ) to assist victims in making applications.

“However, they told me they could not progress my application because the PSNI did not confirm that I was a human trafficking victim,” she said.

“But I had the official SOCA certificate to prove I was a victim. So how was that possible?”

Victim Support NI said it had been trying to contact her for several years but that she had moved. It is understood the application has now been reactivated.

Asked if it was true that it had failed to confirm her status as a victim, the PSNI said: “We do not comment on named individuals and no inference should be drawn from this.”

The DOJ confirmed that victims are able to make applications for compensation. The DoJ decides on the outcome of each application.

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