Family of woman held as ‘slave’ in Belfast was offered bribe to drop case, court told
The woman, assessed as having the learning age of a four-year-old, is now 12 weeks pregnant
Opposing a renewed application for bail, the prosecution set out further concerns about potential interference with witnesses.
The family of a Nigerian woman who claims a couple kept her as their domestic slave in Belfast were allegedly offered a £15,000 “bribe” to have the complaints dropped, the Belfast high court heard on Friday.
Prosecutors also revealed the woman, assessed as having the learning age of a four-year-old, is now 12 weeks pregnant.
Details emerged during a bail application by a financial adviser charged with requiring her to perform forced or compulsory labour over a nine-month period.
Mother-of-two Precious Izekor (26), of Castlereagh Place in east Belfast, is accused along with her husband Osarobo Izekor (33), a Nigerian national, of committing the offence between December 2016 and October 2017.
The couple, who deny the charge, are the first to be prosecuted in Northern Ireland for suspected involvement in domestic servitude. Detectives from the PSNI’s Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking Unit were called in after the 30-year-old alleged victim told a church friend about how she was brought to Northern Ireland in 2011, the court heard.
Iryna Kennedy, prosecuting, claimed the woman cannot read or write, and was denied access to her passport or visa.
According to her account she worked at two locations as part of a wider family arrangement, believing she would be paid £350 a month for cooking, cleaning and childcare duties. It was alleged, however, that she was received no cash while her family back in Nigeria was sent the equivalent of £21 a month.
During interviews the woman said she feared being sent back to a life of poverty in Nigeria.
“She said she was not allowed out, she was always working and looking after the older child,” counsel continued. “On more than one occasion Precious would leave the house and lock the door.”
The alleged victim stated that she believed she would be given freedom after working for five years.
Mr Justice Huddleston was also told the woman thought she was going to marry Osarobo Izekor’s cousin, who is believed to live in either Sweden or Switzerland.
“Police believe the introduction of this male was another emotional manipulation,” Mrs Kennedy said.
Ms Izekor, who holds dual British and Sierra Leonean nationality and is herself pregnant with her third child, was arrested in Glasgow last month.
Opposing her renewed application for bail, the prosecution set out further concerns about potential interference with witnesses.
Mrs Kennedy said: “It has come to light that the injured party’s family in Nigeria had been offered a bribe equivalent to £15,000 for her to withdraw her statement.” No further details were given on the alleged inducement.
The barrister went on: “The injured party is now living free of control, she has built a social life for herself centred around her church.
“She is 12 weeks pregnant and that adds to her vulnerability. If the applicant was released this would put the injured party in a position of depression.”
Barry Gibson, defending, told the court he knew nothing about any bribe claims. He argued that false accusations against his client and her husband have “caused chaos” within a respectable family.
“They are coming from a lady who has one goal and one purpose in life, that is to remain in the UK,” he said. “She has manipulated this situation where this family have been absolutely devastated by her allegations.”
Citing medical issues around his client’s pregnancy, Mr Gibson referred to difficulties when she previously gave birth. Adjourning the bail application, however, the judge said it should wait until after a scan scheduled for later this month.