The Face Behind The Face
Two Asian women came to the enquiry desk with Bushra. They had found her wandering the streets of Bigmarket, obviously lost, begging passing women to help her find the Police. Many walked past on the other side and then luckily for Bushra, she ran into Sameena and her sister. Sameena works for the council as an outreach worker in the local Asian community.
I get a call to the front desk as the Public Enquiry Officer has correctly divined that this one is going to need a detective. I make my way downstairs and find Bushra in one of the private rooms just off the public lobby. Its a soulless blocky little room lit with a fluorescent strip full of dead insects, floored with plastic easy clean tiles and furnished with cheap office furniture dating from the early 80’s. Although the station has been non smoking for a good long time now, you can still smell last years cigarettes in here.
For a first account, Bushra’s words are relayed to me by Sameena and it boils down to this, she has been held prisoner, as a domestic slave, since her marriage. Bushra has been married to Saeed for 18 months during which she has never left the house alone. They are cousins, married in India and Bushra was very much what is jokingly referred to as a “Village Virgin.” She doesn’t have English as a second language. She doesn’t have a second language. Save for the fact of the marriage, she might just as well have been trafficked. Now she lives in a house in Bigmarket with her husband, father-in-law, sister-in-law and fatally her mother-in-law. She says that she has been cut, beaten and burned by her mother-in-law most days of her married life. Any hesitation in obeying orders, any dissent, any sign of having a will or a personality and Bushra says she is savagely assaulted. The rest of the family do nothing to stop it. When the family go out, they lock her in the cellar. Today, for the first time in 18 months they have forgotten to lock the door and Bushra has run. Past the end of the road, she has no mental map so she has thrown herself on the mercy of passing strangers. She cannot tell us her home address.
Next stop Bigmarket General Hospital and sure enough Bushra has healed burns, current burns, badly healed fractures, unhealed fractures, what looks a lot like knife scars and more bruises than have had a stick shaken at them. She provides a statement to an interpreter and she is whisked off to a specialist Asian women’s refuge who tell me that the only unusual thing about Bushra’s story is that she got away.
Next morning I drive to the family home with DC Michelle Cropper and Mommy Dearest knows exactly what its all about and runs the “Dying Swan” routine on us soon after arrest. DC Cropper walks to the open front door and starts saying in a very loud voice how we will have to come back and arrest this woman when she gets better. Shame is a cruel tool to use but it gets the job done and a miracle recovery occurs before the neighbours can hear. A search of the address discloses the hockey stick that is the favoured weapon. There is a cellar and it does lock. The interview is a denial that will not save this woman from conviction and imprisonment at Crown Court. The problem is, looking back at the huge scald scar on mother-in-laws neck and chin, and thinking about the mangled look of some of her fingers, I can’t help but wonder if what I have seen was just the latest incident of a history that keeps repeating itself at an interval of 20 years.
Have you met my daughter-in-law?