It is the first prosecution in Europe involving a Nigerian organised criminal network using Juju to control its victims
A man who trafficked two young Nigerian girls into and out of the UK for sexual exploitation through witchcraft has been jailed for 20 years.
Anthony Harrison, 32, of Albert Square E15 was part of a Nigerian organised criminal network that used West African black magic – known as Juju – to abuse young females and forced them to swear an oath of obedience in order to control them.
On 7th July, at Woolwich Crown Court he was found guilty of the following and received these sentences: Count 1: conspiracy to traffick into the UK for sexual exploitation – 8 years; Count 2: conspiracy to traffick into the UK for sexual exploitation – 10 years; Count 3: conspiracy to traffick out of the UK for sexual exploitation – 8 years; Count 4: conspiracy to traffick out of the UK for sexual exploitation – 10 years; Count 5: false imprisonment – 8 years; and Count 6: false imprisonment – 12 years.
Counts 1, 3 and 5 to run concurrent; as are counts 2, 4 and 6. The two sets of counts are to run consecutively.
Harrison had pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to five offences of fraud. He was sentenced to five months for each count. The judge ruled that this sentence had already been served during time spent in custody.
He was found not guilty of two counts of rape; and four counts of conspiracy to facilitate breaches of immigration law were left to lie on file.
This is the first prosecution in the UK for trafficking victims out of this country for sexual exploitation and the first in Europe involving a Nigerian organised criminal network using Juju to control its victims.
During the three-week trial the court heard how Harrison trafficked two girls, Victim A and Victim B, into the UK from Nigeria in 2009.
Victim A was 16 at the time the offences took place and Victim B was just 14.
Victim A’s ordeal began in 2009 in Edo State, in Central Southern Nigeria, when she was sold by her uncle to an OCN. During interview she told detectives how her uncle took her to two men who performed a Juju ceremony on her.
She was forced to remove her clothing before her arm pits and pubic hair were shaved and placed into a coffin. Her body was then cut with a razor blade, from her head to her toes. Black soot was then rubbed into her wounds. The hair on her head was also cut and placed in the coffin. A sample of her blood was added to the coffin after she was cut deep enough to bleed.
The men later tied her hands behind her back and forced her inside a second coffin and shut the lid. She fought to get out but was unable to. She believes that she passed out due to the fear of being locked inside.
She was then taken home by her uncle but several days later the same men returned and took her to a traditional priest who carried out a further ceremony in which she had to stand in front of a robed effigy of a Juju ‘demi-god’. She had to repeat incantations that were given to her by the priest. She was then taken to another location where a chicken was killed, its chest cut open and its heart removed. She was then forced to eat the heart followed with a drink of alcohol.
She was taken by car to a house in Lagos where a number of other females were housed – including Victim B. She was taken by car to hotels where she was forced to have sex with men in exchange for money.
While at the house she was forced to learn a story that had been handwritten in a notebook. This story was to be her ‘legend’. She had to learn it off by heart and was tested on it by one of the men at the house. If she made a mistake in recounting the story, she was beaten. This story is what she had to tell to the police and the authorities on her arrival into the United Kingdom. If she failed to stick with the story then the spirits would punish her with death.
Victim A was then placed on a flight to the UK. She was told to claim asylum on arrival and given a mobile phone and telephone number which she was instructed to call a few days after her arrival.
She travelled to Heathrow airport on a forged passport, arriving on 30th May 2009. After claiming asylum she was taken into the care of Hillingdon social services and placed in a children’s home. The next day she was interviewed by officers from the MPS’s Child Protection Command. She told the officers an elaborate but false cover story – the story that she had been forced to learn by her captors in Lagos.
On 12th June she absconded from the children’s home. It later emerged that she had rung the number given to her by her captors. The number was that of the defendant, Anthony Harrison. Harrison arranged for her to be taken by cab to Stratford where he met and took her to his home address.
Shortly afterwards, Harrison arranged to sell her on to a gang in Spain. He bought her a plane ticket from Luton to Madrid and gave her a false Dutch ID card and another number to call once she arrived.
On landing in Madrid, Victim A handed herself in to the Spanish authorities. She later told police that she was so exhausted and traumatised by her ordeal that she no longer cared if the Juju gods would kill her for disobeying her captors.
The Spanish authorities returned the victim to the UK where she was once again placed into the care of Hillingdon Social Services.
Her case was taken on by an officer from the Metropolitan Police Service’s Human Exploitation and Organised Crime Command.
The detective was able to trace Harrison via the credit card used to book the victim’s flight from Luton to Madrid. Further investigation revealed that Harrison had used the card to book another flight from Luton to Athens on 17th August, in the name of Samantha Jones.
This intelligence led to the rescue of Victim B.
Over a period of 14 months both victims were interviewed resulting in a total of 40 hours of interview tapes.
Victim B’s experience was very similar to that of Victim A.
Harrison was arrested on 10th November 2010 and charged the following day.
Both victims have been granted five years humanitarian protection by the UKBA and are being looked after by Hillingdon Social services and the Poppy Project, a non-governmental organisation dedicated to the welfare of trafficked women.
Welcoming Harrison’s conviction, DC Andy Desmond of the MPS’s Human Exploitation and Organised Crime Command said: “I would like to pay tribute to the two victims who showed tremendous courage by talking to the police and agreeing to testify against their captor.
“These young women suffered the most terrifying and degrading ordeal – leaving them emotionally, psychologically and physically traumatised. Most cruelly of all, they were brainwashed into believing that if they disobeyed their captors by seeking help, they would die. They were also told that if they went to the police for help they would be handed straight back to their captors.”
DC Desmond hopes that Harrison’s conviction sends out a strong message to other victims who have suffered similar experiences that they can speak out without fearing for their lives. “The MPS is fully aware of this crime. We will listen to you, we will not dismiss you and we will do all that we can to bring the perpetrators to justice.”
DC Desmond asked anybody who suspects trafficked victims are living within their community to contact the MPS to pass on information in confidence on 0800 783 2589. If it’s an emergency, people should call 999.
Harrison has been placed on the Sex Offenders Register and an order placed that he is not to associate or be left in the company of a female under the age of 18 years unless under the supervision of another adult or unless he is a blood relative.
A financial investigation will now be conducted to establish whether Harrison was able to secure any financial gain as a result of his offences.