Hannah Debenham, 42, from Uckfield, East Sussex, who took in a Ukrainian refugee, has been accused of modern-day slavery after asking her to help her more with washing dishes. She was investigated for two months after the accusation before the case was dropped this week when no evidence was found.
The refugee mother, who cannot be named for legal reasons, complained to police that “she was expected to clean and tidy the house for little or no money under the guise of the Ukrainian resettlement scheme,” the police report said.
“We just wanted to help. If I had been charged, I would have had to declare it and it would have been a permanent hindrance to my career. They also spoke to my husband and told him that if I was found guilty, I could face life prison. It was the worst experience of my life,” Hannah Debenham told the Daily Mail.
She added that her lawyer described the actions of Sussex Police as an “outrageous abuse of rights”.
The Ukrainian family had only been living with Hannah Debenham for three weeks when the allegation was made.
The saga begins when Hannah and her husband are looking for a domestic helper to work in their home. They come across the profile of a 30-year-old Ukrainian woman who claims to be an English teacher and contact her.
According to Hannah, they reached an agreement that allowed the teacher and her ten-year-old daughter to stay with them on the condition that she would babysit two to three days a week, for which she would be paid £200.
“The first few weeks were great, but they didn’t clean up after themselves and the amount of dishes to be washed quickly doubled. I explained to her that she needed to help more, we even showed her how to use the dishwasher,” she recalls Hannah.
The mums fell out after Mrs Debenham couldn’t take her guest on a date as she was working from home.
“She slammed the door, and I just thought, ‘Wow, how can she treat me like that?’ I can’t always lead her.”
Things come to a head when the Ukrainian mother takes Hannah’s five-year-old son with her to visit a nearby school.
When the boy told her he needed the toilet, she instructed him to use the open area by wiping himself with a leaf.
“She was shocked that I was upset and said that she wouldn’t have told me if she had known I would react this way. I felt that I could no longer fully trust her with my children and we decided that the arrangement was no longer suits us,” commented the mother.
Just a few days later, Hannah claims her Ukrainian guest phoned her while she was at work and said she was leaving. Minutes later, police officers arrived at Hannah’s home and asked to speak to her. They said she was accused of slavery.
The police report said the Ukrainian mother claimed she was forced to work most days, take care of the children and was expected to clean and tidy the house.
She was allegedly used as a full-time slave and nanny for little or no pay under the guise of helping her in the Ukrainian settlement scheme.
No charges were ever brought against Hannah Debenham as the police found no evidence to support the allegation.
“Since they arrived in the UK and while they were living with us I think we and the local school gave them more than they needed. We provided a school for her daughter, the school provided a full-time teaching assistant just for her daughter as she she didn’t speak English We organized playdates to help her daughter settle into school, we took them on outings to the park and the beach, barbecues with friends, we encouraged the mother to find a local job to help her rebuild their future. But in return, she put me through a lot of stress.”