A sickly phenomenon that Sarah Forsyth (42) unfortunately knows all about. At the age of nineteen she was lured to Amsterdam under false pretences, and forced to work as a prostitute on the Walls. After a nightmare that would last for a year and a half, the British managed to escape. “I saw a girl being killed before my eyes, but I can speak of happiness. At least I can still retell it”, she says in an interview with ‘The Mirror’.
Sarah responded in the mid-nineties to an advertisement to work as an employee in a crèche in Amsterdam. What she did not know was that the text was written by notoriously criminal John Reece. He picked her up at Schiphol, took her passport and pushed a pistol in her mouth after a few minutes.
“As soon as I stepped off that plane and entered the entrance hall, I felt that something was wrong. “Get out of here,” a voice called into my head. Unfortunately, I did not listen and I ended up in the clutches of John. He immediately made it clear that he would kill me if I made one wrong move.”
“My body was shaking”
A few weeks after her kidnapping, Sarah was already working in a brothel. “After that first time, my body began to shake and shake uncontrollably. As if I no longer belonged to this world and had fallen into an endless dark of emptiness. The Sarah of old did not exist anymore, now I was the whore.”
The victims in the prostitution neighbourhood survived on M & M’s and sought consolation. A month later Sarah was sold to Gregor, a Yugoslav pimp who locked her up in a house full of dogs. He expected her to receive eighteen customers per night.
The only way to escape from reality was an expensive crack addiction. Sarah only became even more dependent on her executioners. “My first real love was a chemical substance of cocaine in a cheap kitchen bowl, can you imagine that? It helped me forget my misery and I became hopelessly addicted.”
One day, Sarah saw how a young girl from Thailand was shot in front of her eyes. The terrible scene continues to haunt Sarah to this day. “According to the pimps, she did not bring enough money into the drawer. In a remote warehouse she was paid the bill: a bullet through the head. She fell right in front of my feet. I wanted to scream, but no sound came out of my throat.”
“Then I saw the light of the camera burning. The murder was filmed, I realized. We have all heard of a snuff movie (a violent film in which people are really abused, raped or murdered, ed.) If one of the girls suddenly disappeared without a trace, that theme was discussed. But nobody assumed that that really happened. It was just a way to ‘make a fool of our head’, we thought. So that we would hold our nerve and work even harder.”
“But it turned out to be bitter reality”. Gregor asked if I had learned my lesson. And he made his point clear again. “She did not earn enough, now I can sell that video for millions. That way she brings me money. So, see that you work hard enough, otherwise you are faced with the same fate,” he threatened. “In my nightmares I still see the panic that was in her eyes at the time.”
Sarah would have burned even more horrible scenes on her retina. So, there is that image of a decapitated body, after a quarrel between pimps was completely out of control. The girls themselves were sometimes obliged to play Russian roulette, matter of frightening them. “Every time I pulled the trigger and there was no bullet, I felt cheated. Why was not I granting the pleasure of a quick death?”
After a year and a half, Sarah managed to escape – with the cooperation of the Dutch police. She lived for a while in hiding place, after which she could return to her hometown Gateshead. “My mother was waiting for me with open arms and a sweet look. She put her arms around me and held me tightly. For the first time I felt totally safe. We then had a good time crying together.”
“Treated like cattle”
Sarah delivered a strong testimony in court against all criminals who had abused her. Reece came from there with two years in prison. Of the rest of the perpetrators, it was not enough to know what punishments they received. For Sarah, it took another ten years before she could overcome her drug addiction.
Yet she still calls herself one of the lucky ones. “I know enough girls who died from a bullet or the drugs. Today, thousands of women are still stuck in that hell. First, they are traded as cattle, then they are abused by men who have a normal family at home. Thank God I was able to escape.”
Sarah wrote her terrible experiences in the book ‘Slave girl’. There will be a reprint this month. She was one of the first to openly testify about the miserable malpractice in the world.