Manhunt for self-styled Messiah

Date: 2006-04-04

A WORLDWIDE manhunt is under way today for a surrogate mother, who is believed to have lived in Ipswich with two girls she allegedly kept as slaves.

Self-styled messiah Mercedes Farquharson is said to have beaten Jasmine and Holly Lloyd almost daily while forcing them to work 20 hours a day in appalling conditions.

The sisters' nightmare finally came to an end after 13 years when they were rescued in America, along with another 15-year-old girl adopted by Farquharson.

They accused Farquharson of making them work night and day, caring for a menagerie that included sheep, goats, dogs and some 300 chickens.

Holly, now 18, told local TV channel WCNC: “We just didn't think we could survive because sometimes there were times she would say she wishes she could kill us.”

Jasmine, 22, said: “She'd hit you. She'd use canes, bamboo sticks and dog leashes. Multiple times she has strangled the three of us.

“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.”

They were not allowed to go to school or have friends. Police said Farquharson would bark profanity-ridden orders to the girls over an intercom.

Farquharson, who took in the girls in Southall, west London, in the 1990s, when their real mother was having problems with a difficult marriage, is now on the run.

The “family” are believed to have lived in Ipswich at some point in the 1990s before they moved to Spain and then the United States five years ago.

Holly said Farquharson, who claimed she was the Messiah, made her cook expensive steaks for her, one after another until she got it just right, throwing those she disapproved of to the dogs.

All three girls were rescued from the home in Monroe, North Carolina, after a neighbour reported suspicious circumstances there.

They are now being looked after by a social services employee's family and learning to live a normal life.

Farquharson is wanted on two counts of felony child abuse over the suspected beating of her adopted daughter, and three felony counts of involuntary servitude.

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.”

When social services workers made a scheduled visit to the home in 2003 they had been ordered to tell the officials they loved Farquharson, they said.

Det John Young said investigators believe she may have fled to Spain, after her home was raided in December last year.

Did you know Mercedes Farquharson when she was in Ipswich? If so telephone The Evening Star newsdesk on 01473 324788.

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