Eccles couple guilty of trafficking servant girl
A couple who trafficked a 10-year-old girl to the UK who was repeatedly raped and kept as a domestic servant for nearly a decade have been convicted.
Ilyas and Tallat Ashar brought the girl, who is deaf, from Pakistan and kept her at their home in Eccles, Salford, where she slept in the cellar.
Ilyas Ashar, 84, was also found guilty of 13 counts of raping the girl, now in her 20s, who was found in 2009.
The couple will be sentenced at Manchester Crown Court on 23 October.
Tallat Ashar, 68, was found guilty of trafficking and benefit fraud at an earlier trial, as was her husband.
This can now be reported after the lifting of reporting restrictions, following Ilyas Ashar's conviction for rape at a retrial.Sign language
The victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was only found after trading standards officials visited their Cromwell Road home investigating allegations of illegal activity.
She was found in the cellar, which was described as "sparse, cold and damp".
Police said the girl cleaned and cooked at the house, and was taken to other houses belonging to the family to carry out domestic chores.
Details of the victim's ordeal only emerged after she was taught sign language, enabling her to be interviewed by police.
Thousands of pounds in benefits were claimed in the victim's name and a number of bank accounts were set up using her details, police said.
The couple's daughter, Faaiza Ashar, 46, was also found guilty of benefit fraud at an earlier trial.
Judge Peter Lakin warned Ilyas Ashar to expect a "substantial prison sentence".'Mystery and concern'
Ch Supt May Doyle, from Greater Manchester Police, described Ilyas Ashar as "pure evil".
She praised the victim for being "remarkably courageous" in coming forward and giving evidence against him.
She added: "She's being supported, living a good life now, she's achieving her potential - she's a bright girl."
Ian Rushton, from the Crown Prosecution Service, said the victim was "one of the most vulnerable" they had ever encountered.
"When she was first brought to the UK she was just a child," he said.
"She was unable to hear or speak and had no formal sign language through which to communicate, no family or friends to turn to, had never been to school and had no knowledge of this country's culture and society.
"She was used as forced labour by the Ashars - ill-treated and exploited financially and repeatedly raped by Ilyas Ashar. We have been determined to bring them to justice for this catalogue of abuse."
The passport used to allow the girl into the UK claimed she was 20, and it was a matter of "mystery and concern" how immigration officials at Heathrow did not spot the difference in age.
Hannah Flint, from Stop The Traffik, said: "It is vital that proper training is provided for police, border agencies, teachers, lawyers and other employers to help them spot the signs of human trafficking.
"When she first came in, and that was over 10 years ago, a lot of lessons have been learned since then but more still needs to be done - it's not consistent across the country."