A couple who kept a woman a slave for a period of 10 months are to be convicted of slavery, a court has heard. Osarobo “John” Izekor’s victim and his wife Precious Izekor will also be paid £10,000 by the couple.
The husband and wife, with an address at Ashmount Gardens in Lisburn, admitted between September 1, 2016 and September 30, 2017 that they “required another person to perform forced or compulsory labour”. While the victim was forced to perform domestic duties, much of the Izekors’ crime was unpaid childcare, Reports from Belfast Live.
The case, heard at Belfast Crown Court, is one of the first charges under the Human Trafficking and Exploitation Act. The couple admitted to having kept the Nigerian national as a domestic slave at his then home, Castlereagh Place, East Belfast for a ten-month period.
QC Charles MacCreanor said the illiterate woman came to Northern Ireland in 2011 and worked as a nanny for John Izekor’s sister for five years. When the sister of 36-year-old John Izekor returned to Nigeria in the autumn of 2016, she moved to Castlereagh Place and learned that any work she did would send money back to her family.
During the 10-month period of the crime, the woman had her own room and was given food and clothing – but no money. In addition, the Izekors possessed her passport and other documents, which she did not have access to. Mr MacCreanor said that while she was living with the Izekors, the woman had been in contact with a relative of John’s who expressed a wish that she return to Nigeria so they could marry.
This relative asked the woman about her documents and visa status, and when she raised this issue with Precious, an argument ensued. Despite her request for her documents, the woman was not given them and the dispute led to a “deterioration of relations”.
The woman then tried to find her passport and other documents when 29-year-old Precious Izekor was out. A few days later she left the Izekors and went to live with a friend. This friend, according to the court, was concerned about the woman, felt exploited and accompanied her to the Ministry of the Interior.
When an Interior Ministry official called Izekor’s home, Precious was asked about the woman and denied knowing her. An investigation was launched, leading to the involvement of the PSNI and the subsequent arrests of John and Precious Izekor.
During his police interview, John Izekor initially denied any wrongdoing, arguing that they let the women stay in their home and helped her. In her interview, Precious told officers the woman is a family friend and was never asked to do any form of labor or labor.
Mr MacCreanor said there had been text messages between the husband and wife indicating the control they had over the woman while she was living with them. He also said that after speaking to police about her ordeal, the woman said she felt isolated and alone while living with the couple.
Defense attorney Barry Gibson, representing John Ikezor, said his client spent three months in custody after his arrest. He also spoke about Izekor’s university education, extensive work history and clear criminal record.
Precious Izekor’s lawyer Gavan Duffy QC revealed that the two women used to have a good relationship and said there was a lack of violence or physical assault. After hearing submissions from both the Crown and the Defense, Justice Richard Greene QC spoke about the complexity of the case and said he wanted to consider several issues before passing judgment.
After being told that the Izekors had previously deposited £10,000 in bail with the court, the judge ordered that money be paid to the woman they kept as a house slave. Judge Greene told the couple the charge they pleaded guilty to was “an extremely serious offense” and released them on bail ahead of sentencing, which is scheduled for June 27.