27/02/2012 16:53 GMT

'Cellar Girl' Treated As 'Virtual Slave' Tells Of New Life

A deaf and mute woman who claims she was kept in a cellar and treated as a virtual slave for almost a decade has told a court of her new life away from her alleged tormentors.

The orphaned youngster from Pakistan, who is profoundly deaf and has no speech, claimed she was locked in a cellar each night and by day forced to work cooking and cleaning for no money, Minshull Street Crown Court in Manchester was told.

Her alleged abusers were Ilyas Ashar, 83, and his 66-year-old wife, Tallat Ashar, who both deny charges of false imprisonment, human trafficking, sexual offences, violence and benefit fraud.

They are accused of abusing the victim, now aged between 19 and 21, at their home in Cromwell Road, Eccles, Salford, Greater Manchester, after bringing her into Britain from Pakistan in June 2000.

The trial, now in its third week, has heard claims the victim was beaten regularly, repeatedly raped by Ilyas Ashar and kept a virtual prisoner to work for the family, never having gone to school and taught only to sign her name - for the purposes of a benefits scam.

The alleged victim gave evidence for the first time via a video-link screen to the courtroom on Monday, using sign-language to answer questions, the Press Association reported.

The woman told the jury she had "no friends" when living with the Ashar family and was not allowed to go to college as she does now.

Peter Cadwallader, prosecuting, asked the woman what she enjoyed, now she is not living with the Ashar family.

Her words, given through the sign-language translator, were: "Love going out for walk in the fresh air. Loves going to the fair and enjoy lots of different things.

"Also enjoy going to the college by myself on the bus.

"The third thing I love to do is going out, going around but having nothing to do with men. Sexually having nothing to do with men."

The woman, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, said she is now getting an education and attends a group where she can communicate with other people with similar disabilities as herself.

"I love to learn," she added.

The woman was then shown photos of the inside of the cellar, pointing out a camp-bed where she said she slept and a radiator she used to keep warm.

She also told the jury she would at times also sleep on a settee in the cellar but for some time while living with the Ashars, was ordered not to use the settee and instead told to sleep on a sheet on the concrete floor of the cellar.

"Really really hard," she said. "It hurt my back, sleeping on the floor is hard.

"The bones in my back were very sore."

Mr Cadwallader asked why she slept on the floor beside the settee.

"The old woman (Mrs Ashar)," she replied through the sign-language interpreter.

"She was told to sleep on the floor, she had to sleep on the floor and that's what I did."

The alleged victim's true age is not known but it is thought she was aged between 10 and 12 when she came to the UK, allowed in by immigration on the basis she was to work as a domestic servant.

Instead the girl was made to cook, clean, do the washing and ironing for the Ashars and clean the houses and cars of their family and friends, the court has heard.

She was also allegedly kept in the cellar to work for hours packing football shirts and clothes and mobile phone covers.

Ilyas and Tallat Ashar both deny two counts of human trafficking into the UK for exploitation and a single count of false imprisonment.

Ilyas also denies 12 counts of rape, Tallat denies one count of sexual assault and unlawful wounding and the pair along with their daughter Faaiza, 44, deny charges of benefit fraud.

The trial continues.