Teenage victims ‘of ritual ordeal’

Stratford caretaker on trial for imprisoning and raping young girls

A Newham Council caretaker led a double life as a ‘key player’ in a Nigerian people smuggling gang which subjected children to Juju magic rites and forced them into prostitution, a court heard.

Two teenage girls underwent bizarre rituals which saw one of them shut in a coffin and forced to eat a raw chicken heart, jurors were told.

The ceremonies were intended to ensure the victims were ‘bound’ to a medicine man and would never reveal the truth about what had happened to them, Woolwich Crown Court heard.

Anthony Harrison, 32, from Stratford allegedly raped both girls once they arrived in the UK.

He then attempted to ship them on to Spain and Greece to work in the sex industry, it is said.

Prosecutor Riel Karmy-Jones told jurors that the girls were just 14 and 16 when they were brought into the UK in 2009.

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They were from small villages in Nigeria with limited education and little exposure to the outside world.

Both were from the Edo state where Juju black magic or medicine “exists side by side and in conjunction with other religions.”

Both were subjected to ceremonies involving this black magic and it has taken two years of painstaking work for police investigators to build up sufficient trust for the girls to open up about what happened to them.

Following the “grooming” the girls were sent to the UK on false documents and “into the hands” of the accused.

She said Harrison was “a key player in a sophisticated and organised criminal network for West African people traffickers who have been operating in the UK.”

He arrived in the UK in April 2003 and although his asylum application and subsequent appeals were refused he was granted indefinite leave to remain. He was employed by the borough from August 2004 until his arrest last November, using the false name of Charles Pepple, one of seven aliases he has used at different times.

She said he kept the girls in his home in Albert Square, where he raped them before attempting to move them on to the continent.

Harrison denies four counts of conspiracy to traffic people into and out of the UK for sexual exploitation; two counts each of false imprisonment and rape and four of conspiracy to facilitate breaches of immigration law.

The court heard he has admitted five counts of fraud by using false names to obtain employment, credit cards and telephones.

Police eventually tracked Harrison down using a jigsaw of evidence from the victims, financial and mobile phone records and CCTV footage, the court heard.

The trial continues.