A British woman has told how she was kidnapped as a teenager and held captive for 13 years by a sadistic paedophile who sold the babies she had from him raping her.
Anna Ruston was befriended by an Asian taxi driver in the Midlands who lured her to his home before imprisoning her for more than a decade. Mostly held in a locked bedroom, Anna’s only contact with the outside world came on rare hospital visits for brutal injuries and the birth of four children. Through these hospital visits, he would remain by her side, posing as her husband – yet she was too petrified to speak out.
She was raped almost every night, eventually escaping after she concocted a plan with a visiting health worker.
But her attacker remains unpunished as she has never felt strong enough to give evidence that could help bring him to justice. The police have tried to change her mind, even revealing a later victim is willing to speak out if she does.
Now free for 16 years, Ms Ruston - not her real name - has written a book as part of therapy for her experiences, Secret Slave, published last month. She hopes, in time, she will be able to take her captor to court.
In it, she explains how she was imprisoned when she was just 15 after meeting the man, named Malik, at a taxi rank where she worked, according to the Daily Mirror.
“My nana died when I was ten and my parents didn’t want me,” Anna explains. “If anyone showed me affection I grabbed hold of that,” she adds. “Malik would ask me how I was. It was nice to have someone interested. It was one day in 1987 that the cabbie asked blonde Anna to “meet his family for tea”, which she “thought was nice”. It was just two days after her 15th birthday.
She says Malik lived with his brothers, their wives, children and his mother. Anna recalls: “When Malik said I should stay the night I thought nothing of it, I assumed he would take me home in the morning. He knew no one would miss me.” During the night Malik stormed into her room and branding her a “filthy white s***” whom he would “make his own”. He turned on her with the most violent physical abuse and sickening rape imaginable, then locked the bedroom door.
Anna fears it was because Malik was Asian that authorities she encountered during her captivity asked no questions.
She says: “Malik dressed me in his culture’s clothes, dyed my hair black, made me wear a scarf and keep my head down. When he spoke for me they thought it was a cultural thing. And I think people are scared to be accused of discrimination.”
Ms Ruston said that one of his brothers also took to visiting her. And, seeing an opportunity to make money, Malik eventually prostituted her to men who would visit the house. Malik’s family turned a blind eye.
The wives were sometimes friendly, on occasion sneaking her painkillers. They would draw heavy kohl make-up around her eyes to hide her bruises. “But they were scared to say anything,” she says. “They were being abused too.”
The only time Malik let up in his abuse was when Anna was pregnant. She said: “I can still see that bedroom, the corner where I would rock in pain. Although after a while I stopped feeling pain, I think my body shut down. “And I can smell it - the can I used as a toilet, the garlic he reeked of. I got to the point where I didn’t know what life was.”
Ms Ruston described how she clung on to sanity by talking to her late grandmother - and by looking at a small photo of her first boyfriend, Jamie, she hid under a floorboard.
She carried four children during her captivity. The reason for Malik’s apparent care soon became clear. He wanted to sell her babies – as she quickly learned. But when her firstborn arrived in hospital, Malik quickly got her discharged and whisked him away. “I barely held any of my babies, I did not get the chance to be a mother to them,” Anna says. Each time, she would be marched out to hold her children for health visitors. But once contact stopped, the baby would be sold.
It seems astonishing that no professional raised the alarm when they met this mute, six-stone girl. Once, the police visited the house when Anna’s screams were heard – but Malik convinced them all was fine. For herself, Anna says she simply became too terrified to escape. “Twice I tried to get out of the back door but I got such a beating,” she admits.
Instead, she made regular attempts to kill herself. Anna admits she would eventually have ended it all, had not finally been for the help of a health visitor. She eventually plucked up the courage to write “help me” on a piece of paper with a date she knew Malik and his family would be distracted by prayers for the Islamic festival of Eid.
When her health visitor came to the house she dropped it on the floor. Anna remembers: “I think she must have had an inkling, because she put her foot on it, then picked it up.” When the woman handed her a form to sign she had written on it: “I will ring the house phone three times when I’m outside.”
By a miracle, the plan worked. As expected, the family were occupied with prayers, and after the phone rang Anna asked to go to the toilet – they let her. With an incredible stroke of luck, a key had been left in the front door and she managed to get out to her rescuer. By the time they alerted police, Malik had already been in touch, claiming his “wife” had run away and “suffered severe mental illness”.
But eventually, Anna managed to get them to believe her story. However, she was too terrified to press charges. Under police protection, briefly, she stayed with her mother who seemed unconcerned about where she had been. Neither of her parents made any attempt to search for her after she went missing, nor had social services.
Anna’s salvation came when she met Jamie again, who had been in the Army; they went on to have four children together. For years she told him she had moved away after being in hospital with anorexia, only telling him the truth last year. Ms Ruston said: “He went away for a day, I thought I had lost him, that he would judge me. But he came back and just hugged me.”
In such cases of modern-day slavery, police should not always need a victim’s evidence to take action, according to Kevin Hyland, the independent anti-slavery commissioner.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Sometimes there’s ways of collating evidence without a victim. That’s why I’ve been saying continuously and in my annual report to Parliament this year, saying this is serious organised crime and policing needs to use the same techniques, the same level of resources, as it does for other serious and organised crime.”
Anna still suffers from physical injuries, as well as bulimia, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, which means she rarely leaves her home.
She hopes one day, along with being physically free, she will finally be emotionally free.