Emaciated woman weighing just 40kg ‘kept as slave by family for eight years’

A wealthy Australian family allegedly kept a starving Indian woman as their house slave for eight years.

Paramedics who burst into the upmarket Melbourne home in 2015 found the woman emaciated and incoherent, lying in her own urine on the bathroom floor.

The woman, in her 50s, was taken to hospital where she was found to weigh just 40kg. She said she had been surviving primarily on tea and occasional bowls of rice.

Six years on, the husband and wife charged with enslaving her – both well-respected members of the Mount Waverley community – have pleaded not guilty at a trial at the Supreme Court of Victoria.

Identified only by the initials KK and KK, the couple met the woman while visiting the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, the court heard.

She came to Australia to work for the family on two separate occasions, returning home to India both times.

In 2007 she began working for the couple again but their relationship soured and she was allegedly kept in the home against her will and not paid.

Prosecutors allege the illiterate woman was unable to leave for eight years, receiving only "the odd $5 or $10 note here and there that might have been given to her on her birthday," Richard Maidment QC said.

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The court heard the woman cared for the couple's three children, cooked and folded clothes long after her visa had expired.

When the family went on month-long holidays the woman would be locked in the house with some of the doors sealed shut, Mr Maidment told the court.

As time went on she contacted her family in India less and less frequently. On one occasion the wife allegedly replied to an email pleading for her to be returned home with "get f***ed".

One day in 2015 the woman collapsed and Mrs KK phoned for an ambulance, after which she was admitted to intensive care.

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Hospital staff found she had diabetes, sepsis and hypothermia.

When police attempted to interview her in hospital she told them she wasn't allowed to speak to them without Mrs KK present, fearing she would be punished.

The couple have been charged under Commonwealth law with one count each of possessing and using a slave.

Prosecutors allege they wielded such control over the woman's freedom of movement, right to communicate with others and right to be paid for her work that their behaviour constitutes slavery.

Dr Gideon Boas, defending, called the woman's claims of indentured servitude "colourful" and "dramatic".

He said she was an "integrated member of the family" and was affectionately known as "Ammachi", a Tamil term meaning grandmother.

The trial is expected to last six weeks.

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