Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 27 December 2014

Horror of 'sex slave house' in Armagh: Women held in home and raped over two decades, court hears

* Victim weighing six stone held in unlit bedroom, judge hears
* Another woman claims she suffered 20 years of abuse
* Video of sex acts involving victims seized
* Man (57) denies overseeing 'house of horrors'

One woman was kept in a room with no handle on the inside, it is alleged. Picture posed
One woman was kept in a room with no handle on the inside, it is alleged. Picture posed

A malnourished Englishwoman with severe learning disabilities was raped repeatedly and imprisoned for nearly a decade at a specially adapted house in Northern Ireland, the High Court has heard.

Another woman assessed as suffering chronic post-traumatic stress said she suffered 20 years of abuse after starting a second family with the man accused of a catalogue of molestation.

Prosecutors claimed one of the victims, a married woman said to have gone missing from her home in 2004, weighed just six stone after being kept locked in a sparse and unlit bedroom with no inside door handle.

Video footage of sex acts involving both women, their alleged captor, his wife and other unidentified men have been seized, a judge was told.

Details emerged as the man accused of controlling and running the lives of two vulnerable adults at an address in Co Armagh applied for bail.

The 57-year-old, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, faces charges of rape, false imprisonment and sexual activity with a person with a mental disorder.

He is further charged with indecent assault, trafficking within the UK for sexual exploitation, voyeurism, aiding and abetting rape and causing or inciting a person with a mental disorder to engage in sexual activity.

The alleged offences, committed between 2004 and January this year, are all denied.

The accused told police both women fully consented, the court heard.

His barrister also disputed any prosecution portrayal of his client was "a monster" overseeing a "house of horrors".

Police were called in last December after one of the alleged victims – identified only as M – informed a social services learning disability team that another woman in her forties from England – referred to as C – had been living in an upstairs room at her home for the past six years.

The property consisted of two houses knocked into one, the court heard.

Prosecution counsel Conor Maguire said officers then called at the address and discovered C.

She showed police a bedroom and claimed she had been kept there against her will for the past two years.

It had no carpet, wallpaper or lightbulb, according to Mr Maguire.

The inside door handle was missing, rendering it effectively impossible for anyone inside to get out once it was closed, he said.

At that stage C left with social services and has not returned.

Although the accused was not present, his wife claimed she and M had both lived in the house with their respective families.

During further searches of the house laptop computers, cameras, recording equipment and mobile phones were seized.

A locked walk-in cupboard was noted to be well-stocked with alcohol, Mr Maguire said.

He claimed documentation found in the house showed C had been living there since March 2004 – in a dirtier and messier half of the property.

It was at that stage her husband in England claims he reported her missing, the court heard.

But with both C and him said to have learning difficulties, the prosecution confirmed there was no record of the authorities being informed.

Over the course of a series of interviews C claimed:

  • She was in a sexual relationship with the accused.
  • The accused carried out a series of sex acts with her, including some in the presence of his wife and M.
  • She was kept locked in her room every day, had her food brought up to her and had to knock to get out to go to the toilet.
  • She was allowed to have a shower once a week.
  • She regarded M as her main carer.
  • The accused's wife would bring her tea.

"Police believe that it was in England that she was groomed before being taken to Northern Ireland," Mr Maguire said.

"She also told police that she engaged in sexual activity with the applicant because she said 'I was scared of (him)' and she said 'he gave me sweets'." Psychiatric assessments found C has a severe learning disability and would be unable to consent to sex, the court heard.

Experts have also concluded that she had neither the capacity to move to Northern Ireland herself nor to leave the property where she was allegedly imprisoned.

Mr Maguire disclosed there was no record on police or social service systems of C ever having lived in Northern Ireland.

"She is not on any electoral role and she has never claimed benefits here," he said.

"She has never been registered with a GP, dentist or optician."

Medical checks carried out in January found her to be in poor health, showing signs of dehydration and malnourishment, the court heard.

A dental examination of C revealed her dental health to have been neglected over years.

"The dentist concluded only one tooth was sound," Mr Maguire said.

"She weighed six stone when social services intervened. Her physical health has improved considerably since being removed from the property."

As he opposed bail, the barrister claimed there was video footage of C engaged in various sex acts with the accused alone and with his wife.

Further recordings allegedly depict M with the accused and other unknown men.

It was also revealed that the accused's wife faces charges of aiding and abetting rape.

A further alleged offence against her involves a filmed incident with an elderly man in her husband's presence.

Footage connected to that charge was discovered inside a locked briefcase during searches of the house.

Turning to M, it was claimed that she and the accused became a couple after they met outside Northern Ireland when she was aged 21.

At that stage he was already married and introduced his wife to her as the children's nanny, it was alleged.

M, who has a family with the accused, told police they are no longer in a relationship. She claimed he forced her to have sex with other men, the court heard.

"She said this happened at various locations throughout Northern Ireland and England," Mr Maguire said.

Although also suspected of being controlled, detectives believe she was able to live more independently than C.

The court heard, however, that she has been assessed as suffering from chronic post-traumatic stress disorder and to be scared of the accused. "(She) was with the applicant for over 20 years and suffered his abuse for over 20 years to the extent that she feared leaving him," Mr Maguire said. Defence counsel Andrew Moriarty argued that it would be wrong for a bail court to be swept away in a "wave of allegations that are certainly salacious".

He said: "The Crown are essentially trying to paint this man as being a monster and that this was a house of horrors."

Countering any such portrayal, he contended, was how he dealt with a problem over his daughter moving in with her boyfriend.

"That is (not) indicative of the monster that the Crown would have us believe that he is. That would appear to point towards a concerned father," the barrister insisted.

He told the court that prosecution fears the accused would interfere with witnesses, reoffend or flee could all be dealt with.

During submissions, Mr Moriarty described his client as an "infirm" man who was at one stage bed-ridden for months.

But after being challenged by the judge, Mr Justice Maguire, on a lack of medical evidence to back his assertions, he agreed to adjourn the application.

The accused will now remain in custody until his case returns to court at a later stage.

Unremarkable looking property at heart of claims

By Rebecca Black

The two adjoining terrace houses in Co Armagh where an English woman is alleged to have been imprisoned for nearly a decade looks as unremarkable and innocuous as any other home in Northern Ireland.

Set in a quiet estate in Craigavon, yesterday there was little activity in the area, bar the usual dinner time rush as drivers returned home from work.

Yet the area has been rocked by allegations that a 57-year-old man living in the specially adapted two-house unit held a woman with severe learning difficulties hostage for a decade.

Police were called in last December after one of the alleged victims – identified only as M – informed a social services learning disability team that another woman in her 40s from England – referred to as C – had been living in an upstairs room at her home for the past decade.

In one of the most startling cases to come before the courts here, the man has been accused of offences including rape, false imprisonment, sexual activity with a person with a mental disorder, indecent assault, trafficking within the UK for sexual exploitation and voyeurism.

The man, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, has denied these charges. He told police both women fully consented, the court heard.

His barrister also disputed any prosecution portrayal of his client as "a monster" overseeing a "house of horrors".

Yesterday the man applied for bail, but was refused.

Neighbours expressed shock as details of the case emerged.

Prosecuters told the High Court that one of the alleged victims, a married woman said to have gone missing from her home in 2004, weighed just six stone after being kept locked in a sparse and unlit bedroom with no inside door handle.

Video footage of sex acts involving both women, their alleged captor, his wife and other unidentified men have been seized, a judge was told.

"We just can't believe it," said one female neighbour. "We have been following it in the papers and every story is more shocking than the last when you start hearing more of the allegations.

"I knew the women, not well, just to chat to sometimes."

Other neighbours described the occupants of the house as "quiet" and said they "kept their business to themselves".

One man was completely shocked at the alleged offences.

He described the man at the centre of the case as "friendly and chatty", adding that he had been in the house once to help fix a lightbulb, describing the insides as "bare".

A woman answered the door of the house last night accompanied by a second person, but said she did not wish to speak to the media.

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