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Last Updated: Monday, 3 April 2006, 21:59 GMT 22:59 UK
Two UK girls 'treated as slaves'
Map in North Carolina
The two British girls moved to North Carolina around five years ago
US police are searching for a woman who allegedly kept two British girls as slaves for 13 years.

Mercedes Farquharson, 60, made Jasmine and Holly Lloyd work 20 hours a day at her North Carolina home until they were freed in December, police said.

She is wanted on three counts of involuntary servitude, police in Monroe, North Carolina, say.

She had taken over care of the girls in Southall, west London, in the 1990s, taking them to Spain and then the US.

Jasmine and Holly, now 22 and 18 respectively, said they were not allowed to go to school or have any friends and had to look after a menagerie that included more than a dozen dogs and around 300 chickens.

Farquharson, who took in the girls when their mother was having marriage problems, is now on the run. Investigators believe she may have fled to Spain.

We had to clean until we could eat off the floor or until you could see your face in the counter
Holly Lloyd

She is also wanted on two counts of felony child abuse over the suspected beating of her adopted daughter.

The Lloyd sisters and Farquharson's 15-year-old adopted daughter were taken from the home in Monroe, North Carolina, by police after a neighbour reported suspicious circumstances.

Detective John Young, of Union County Sheriff's Office, said: "The house was nasty. It was like the inside of a barn.

"This woman was working these girls basically 20 hours a day and wouldn't give them proper nourishment or any kind of schooling."

'Regular beatings'

Holly told local TV channel WCNC the experience was "very draining". She said Farquharson would beat the three girls, using "canes, bamboo sticks and dog leashes".

She said all the girls would get into trouble for something each day and at least two would be beaten.

"We had to clean until we could eat off the floor or until you could see your face in the counter but it was gruelling," she said.

The Lloyd sisters said they were put to work aged 12 and seven. After moving from the UK, they lived with Farquharson in Spain for around six years before moving to Monroe some five years ago.

When social services workers made a scheduled visit in 2003, the girls said they were ordered to clean the home and tell officials they loved Farquharson.

But late last year investigators returned and took the 15-year-old into care.

The Lloyd sisters are now being cared for at the home of a social services employee's family.

Jasmine Lloyd also spoke to the WCNC channel about her former life.

"When I was there, I never thought it was weird or bizarre," she said.

"Now that I'm out I realise she's the weird one, not the rest of the world."

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