Immigrant ‘slave’ left to collapse in her own urine

A MELBOURNE couple has denied keeping an illegal Indian immigrant as a slave, beating and mistreating her until she literally collapsed.

The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons as she has been deemed a vulnerable witness, came to Australia in 2007 on a one-month tourist visa.

She was to work for a Mount Waverley couple - cooking, cleaning and helping to raise their three children.

However, it is alleged that despite being promised 7000 rupees (about $A143) a month she was never paid. Instead she was neglected to the point of collapsing in a pool of her own urine.

She came to Australia for a better life - she had lost her family home in India after her husband died and she accumulated debts paying for her daughter's wedding.

After being beaten up by her sons, her daughter and son-in-law arranged for her to work for husband and wife, Kandasamy and Kumuthini Kannan.

The woman, who allegedly subsisted on rice and tea as her health deteriorated, told police the Kannans made her work from 5.30am to 3am each day, with Mrs Kannan beating her if her work wasn't up to scratch.

She claimed Mrs Kannan sometimes hit her with household items like frozen produce and knives, kicked her and would pull her hair.

On Monday, Melbourne Magistrates Court was told that while the Kannans and their children were on holiday, the woman would be locked inside the house without a key, unable to leave.

Finally in July 2015, the woman was taken to Box Hill Hospital after Mrs Kannan called triple-0, with paramedics finding the woman suffering severe hypothermia and in an altered state of consciousness.

According to hospital records, the woman had a case of urinary sepsis that would have been fatal if left untreated, type 2 diabetes, was malnourished and had crusted lesions on her hands and feet.

The woman's teeth had also fallen out.

The Kannans have each been charged with possessing a slave between July 2007 and July 2015, exercising ownership over a slave, and harbouring an unlawful non-citizen.

They both deny the allegations, claiming "all her needs were met" and that their children regarded her as their "ammachi" - or grandmother.

The Kannans also claim the woman's son-in-law had tried to extort money from them by making allegations of slavery, which would be withdrawn in return for a specified sum of money.

On Monday, the woman gave evidence via video link with the help of an interpreter, stating she hoped to return to India soon.

A five-day committal hearing to determine if the Kannans will stand trial is expected to continue until Friday.

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