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Last Updated: Friday, 8 September 2006, 16:58 GMT 17:58 UK
Woman guilty over 'naked slave'
A mother-of-six from York has been found guilty of beating her former sister-in-law and keeping her as a domestic slave.

Antonia Pearson-Gaballonie, 36, of New Lane, Acomb, denied false imprisonment, making threats to kill and assault.

During a two-year period she beat Veronica Sandeman, 26, and forced her to work naked, York Crown Court heard.

Her husband Neil Pearson, 35, of the same address, was convicted of aiding and abetting her to commit an assault.

The Recorder of York, Paul Hoffman, told both defendants they would be going to prison when they were sentenced in November.

The jury heard Pearson-Gaballonie had been previously married to Miss Sandeman's brother.

She forced her to clean the house naked, made her beg for food and stopped her from contacting her parents.

She had deliberately taken an overdose in order to avoid this trial
Recorder of York, Paul Hoffman

She also claimed 10,000 of disability benefits on behalf of her victim

The court heard she claimed 31 each week on her behalf between 1997 and 2005 but insisted the money would have been readily available if Miss Sandeman had asked for it.

Pearson-Gaballonie did not appear in the dock during the trial as she took an overdose of drugs before it began on Monday and needed hospital treatment.

Explaining her absence to the jury after it returned unanimous guilty verdicts, the judge said: "She had deliberately taken an overdose in order to avoid this trial."

Pearson-Gaballonie, who was arrested on warrant on Friday morning at Bootham Hospital, was then brought into court and stood in the dock with five guards.

Scissor attack

The judge refused her bail and told her she inevitably faced "a lengthy custodial sentence". Pearson was granted bail until November.

Earlier during the trial, Miss Sandeman told the court Pearson helped his wife to savagely beat her at Christmas 2004.

She said he gave his wife a belt to beat her with and held her arms while his wife hacked her hair off and jabbed at her face with scissors.

The jury heard Pearson watched his wife beat Miss Sandeman with a belt on Christmas Eve, stab her with scissors, assault her with a rolling pin, and hold a knife to her throat on Christmas Day 2004.

The assaults dated from New Year's Eve 2002 until Christmas Day 2004.

Police were alerted in December 2004 after Miss Sandeman appeared at her friend Amanda Palmer's house one night and told her about the beating.

'Emotional wreck'

Pearson, a garage manager and nightclub bouncer, married Pearson-Gaballonie in June 2004 but said he never saw any evidence of abuse.

He said Miss Sandeman was not expected to do more than her fair share of housework and was never starved of food.

After the hearing Det Insp Mick Moore, of North Yorkshire Police, said he would not have expected to hear about a case such as this in this country "in this day and age".

He said Miss Sandeman was "an emotional and physical wreck" when she was first seen by officers, curled up in the foetal position wearing men's clothes she had found in a garage.

"It was just an awful time going over a long period of time," he said.

Prosecutor gives details of the case

Woman 'kept as naked work slave'
06 Sep 06 |  North Yorkshire

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