A woman who locked up her ‘friend’ in a room for hours on end every day, in “precarious' hygienic conditions, while taking her social benefit funds, has been handed a suspended sentence.
The case was flagged to the vice squad by another woman who had shared the same house for a few months and finally plucked up courage to move out and report the matter to the police.
Officers who raided the home of Anna Maria Jimenez came across the woman with her alleged victim, seated at a kitchen table assembling toy figures.
The general ambiance was not dirty but unkempt.
The room where the victim stayed lacked lighting and had a strong stench of animal excrement given that two dogs shared the space.
Jimenez and her partner lived at the residence together with the other vulnerable woman who spent most of the day locked up in her room.
Charges were issued against Jimenez for allegedly holding her victim against her will, slightly injuring her and causing her to fear violence.
The victim herself testified in the proceedings recounting how Jimenez had offered her a place to stay when the two became friends.
When they moved together into a newer residence at Birżebbuġa, she ended up being locked up in her room, with the two dogs.
A bucket served as toilet as well as to clean the room.
Jimenez would let her out every morning to walk the dogs round the block and then, back to her room before being let out again in the afternoon for another walk with the dogs.
Her breakfast consisted of some water and she was only given one meal in the evening.
The accused would threaten not to feed her unless she finished the toy-figure assembling tasks, so that the victim would work late into the night. Jimenez took home 2,000 toys a day from Playmobil to assemble.
Jimenez would accompany the woman to register for social benefits and also to cash the cheques which followed.
Sometimes she would go with the accused to play bingo.
This life went on for some four and a half years until her previous housemate reported the matter to the police.
When delivering judgment, the court, presided over by magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit, observed that there was no cause to doubt the veracity of the victim’s testimony as well as that of the other woman who had filed the police report.
The victim had indeed been locked up for hours in a “precarious hygienic” situation and both she and the other victim had always gone back home because they feared the accused who would threaten to kick them out or make them lose their job.
The court rejected the defence’s argument that the accused had not been assisted by a lawyer during interrogation, pointing out that she had refused such assistance before releasing her statement.
And besides, that fact did not appear to have impacted the overall fairness of the proceedings.
In light of all considerations ,the court declared the accused guilty, but not of the slight injuries allegedly inflicted, and condemned her to a 2 year jail term suspended for three years.
She was also ordered to pay €301 in court expenses.
Inspector Joseph Busuttil prosecuted. Lawyer Roberta Bonello Felice was defence counsel.
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