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I worked as a fixer for The Sunday Times to produce this investigative piece on human trafficking involving a Romanian gang which used to operate in the United Kingdom.
Elena was six years old when she was set to work as a slave in this suburban house in north London. She never went to school and rarely saw daylight.
At 5.30pm on a cool spring evening in 2011, a team of five specialist crime officers knocked on the white door of an ordinary terraced house in north London and waited.
Inside the house in Cranbrook Park, Wood Green, a timid six-year-old girl was getting eight other children, some as young as two years old, ready for bed. Barefoot, in a filthy T-shirt and torn trousers, Elena had spent the day cleaning and preparing food. Her feet were black with grime, even to the top of her shins. Now she was getting ready for her night shift — tidying bedrooms, running baths and handing out freshly laundered pyjamas. If she put a foot wrong, she would be beaten by her terrifying, gold-toothed female “boss” Alexandra Oaie — otherwise known as “Ferma” (the Firm One). More...