Husband and wife allegedly kept slave in Melbourne


Victoria’s snap lockdown has delayed the trial of a couple accused of keeping an Indian woman as a slave for eight years.

More details of the woman’s alleged captivity and how she came to be in Melbourne were set to be aired on the third day of the trial in the Supreme Court of Victoria on Friday.

The Mount Waverley husband and wife, who can’t be named for legal reasons, are accused of possessing a slave between 2007 and 2015. They deny the charges.

But the state government’s decision to impose a five-day lockdown brought a halt to the proceedings.

“You can appreciate it’s been a messy sort of day,” Justice John Champion told jurors on Friday afternoon after the announcement.

“You will all have appreciated (what) Melbourne is about to experience yet again by way of a hard lockdown.”

He said in light of this, he decided to adjourn the trial to resume on Thursday when the restrictions lift.

This was to maintain the safety of everyone, help reduce people’s movement and ensure they had time on Friday afternoon to get ready for the lockdown, he said.

The trial started on Wednesday and details of the alleged victim’s ordeal were aired in court.

“She was found in her own urine, in a puddle on the bathroom floor and shivering,” prosecutor Richard Maidment told jurors.

The “incoherent” woman was rushed to hospital and paramedics recorded her temperature at 28.5C, he said. She weighed just 40kg and had sepsis, the court was told.

The prosecutors allege the couple had such a level of control over the woman’s rights and freedoms that it was slavery.

The court was told they allegedly controlled her right to communicate with others, freedom of movement and her rights to healthcare and payment for work.

But lawyers for the pair dispute they possessed, controlled or abused the woman during her time in Australia.

The alleged victim was an “integrated member of the family” and they referred to her using the Tamil word for grandmother, defence lawyer Gideon Boas said during his opening remarks.

He represents the wife who has denied the woman was a slave.

The alleged victim was provided with clothes, didn’t pay rent and her food and needs were provided for, Dr Boas said on Thursday.

The husband’s lawyer John Kelly said it was important jurors kept the cases against each of the accused separate in their minds.

The alleged victim described his client as a “hardworking man” who would help with chores and would ask about her wellbeing, Mr Kelly said.

Police phone taps allegedly record conversations the pair had with an unknown man in India telling him about the allegations.

“We don’t treat her cruelly, she was living like a king,” the husband is allegedly recorded telling the man.



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