NEWS
04/07/2018 16:26 BST | Updated 04/07/2018 17:32 BST

Nurse Josephine Iyamu Jailed For 14 Years For Trafficking Nigerian Women To Germany

She is the first person to be jailed under new modern slavery laws.

A British nurse has been jailed for 14 years after she used voodoo threats to traffick five Nigerian women to Germany to work as prostitutes.

In a landmark case, Josephine Iyamu, 51, become the first person to be jailed under new modern slavery laws despite her victims having never set foot in the UK.

Wearing a blue headscarf and flanked by three prison guards, Liberia-born British citizen Iyamu looked down in the dock at BirminghamCrown Court as Judge Richard Bond labelled her “a predator”.

He said: “You saw your victims not as living breathing human beings but as a commodity to earn you money.

“You preyed on these five young women and all have been left physically and psychologically scarred by the voodoo rituals they endured.

“The effect of those ceremonies was to effectively put them under lock and key.”

Earlier during the 10-week trial, the jury heard how Iyamu, who was known to her victims as Madame Sandra, had met her victims in the Nigerian city of Benin.

She forced the women to swear oaths before a voodoo priest during a week-long series of humiliating so-called juju ceremonies during which they promised to pay her up to 37,000 Euros for arranging their travel to Europe.

Prosecutor Simon Davis said: “A chicken was used to hit them on their naked backs and chests and then they had to eat the heart of the chicken which had been killed. 

“On a number of occasions, the priest cut their skin with a knife and rubbed black powder in the wounds

“After the appointment with the voodoo priest, Sandra packaged pieces of hair individually from their heads as well as pubic hair and wrote names on the packages.

“She told them ’You have now eaten of the devil and if you do not pay, the devil will kill you”

Iyamu, formerly of Bermondsey in London, then arranged for the women to be trafficked first across the Sahara desert to Libya before being shipped across the Mediterranean in an inflatable boat.

The married mother-of-one is the first person to be prosecuted in the UK for arranging or facilitating travel for sexual exploitation of victims with no connection to Britain.

As well as being found guilty of five offences under the Modern Slavery Act, Iyamu was convicted of perverting the course of justice while on remand, by arranging for relatives of the complainants in Nigeria to be arrested.

Passing sentence, the judge told Iyamu: “Trafficking human beings is an ugly offence – it must always be dealt with severely by the courts to deter others from taking part in this vile trade.

“You showed a complete disregard for the welfare of these women. You saw them not as living, breathing human beings but as commodities to earn you large sums of money.

“All five of your victims had to be rescued from the boat they were on, before being put into a camp in Italy. You understood the potential dangers, you simply did not care.”

Iyamu, who was made a British citizen in 2009 having been allowed to stay in the UK due to her nursing qualifications, is known to have declared a modest income of around £14,500 in 2016/17 from her work as an NHS agency nurse.

But inquiries after Iyamu’s arrest in 2017 found she was able to afford to spend thousands on international air travel and to afford a large home in Benin City in Nigeria - complete with servants’ quarters.

Opening the case at the start of the trial, prosecutor Simon Davis told jurors the complainants endured awful conditions while being trafficked on a route where sexual assaults, rape, kidnap and death were commonplace.

Davis said it was clear that Iyamu had travelled extensively across Europe and into Africa on a regular basis to meet victims.

Defence counsel John Benson QC told the court Iyamu - the daughter of a politician - had “lost everything” as a result of her conviction, including her hope of pursuing a political career in Nigeria.