A PENSIONER who trafficked a 10-year-old deaf and mute orphan into Britain, keeping her in his cellar to claim benefits, was convicted yesterday of repeatedly raping the girl.
Ilyas Ashar, 84, was found guilty of 13 counts of rape against the girl, who is now in her twenties, after she was kept at the home he shared with his wife Tallat in Eccles, Salford, and made to sleep in the "sparse, cold and damp" cellar.
The jury at Minshull Street Crown Court in Manchester heard that the girl, an orphan from Pakistan who is profoundly deaf and cannot speak, was beaten and slapped as well as being forced to work for Ashar and his family and friends in virtual slavery as a domestic servant.
Details of the victim's ordeal only emerged after she was taught sign language following her accidental discovery in 2009 by trading standards officers who had come to the couple's house to investigate possible illegal activities.
Ashar used his victim to satisfy his sexual desires as well as enlisting his wife to use the girl's details to steal more than £30,000 in benefits and setting up several bank accounts in her name.
Two female jurors wept as the guilty verdicts were delivered against Ilyas Ashar, who was warned by Judge Peter Lakin to expect a "substantial prison sentence".
The judge said he was excusing the jurors of further jury service for a decade after hearing traumatic evidence. Ashar had been convicted at an earlier trial of two counts of trafficking a person into the UK for exploitation and three counts relating to the fraudulent obtaining of benefits.
Tallat Ashar, 68, and the couple's daughter, Faaiza Ashar, 46, were also found guilty at the previous trial of benefit fraud charges.
After that jury had been unable to reach a verdict against Ilyas Ashar on the rape charges, a re-trial was ordered which was the subject of reporting restrictions until yesterday's convictions. Police described Ilyas Ashar as "pure evil", having exploited a victim who had no means to communicate.
Salford divisional commander Chief Superintendent Mary Doyle said: "She was essentially kept in domestic servitude. What is remarkable - and the most important aspect of this unusual case - is that the victim has emerged a confident, well-adjusted and determined young woman."
Campaigners expressed concern that the victim was brought to Britain through Heathrow airport in June 2000 around the age of 10 using a passport which gave her age as 20.
Hannah Flint, of Stop The Traffik, said: "It is vital that proper training is provided for police, border agencies, teachers, lawyers and other employers to help them spot the signs of human trafficking."