Frightening saga has happy ending
By Jane Duckwall
It might sound like the plot from a novel: Three young girls forced into years of servitude by a woman claiming to be a deity.
But this is a true story that had a happy ending in Union County.
The three girls, now young women, are planning to write a book about their ordeal. They want to inform others about human trafficking.
"Our goal is to get it out in the next couple of years," says 28-year-old Jasmine Lloyd, who speaks with a British accent.
She and her sisters have shared their story many times - with reporters, court officials and church congregations.
She and her biological sister, Holly, were born in England to Indian-born parents whose arranged marriage failed.
Her mother barely spoke English, and struggled as a single parent in a foreign land. Jasmine said her mother was befriended by a British woman named Mercedes Farquharson.
"She seemed nice at the time," Lloyd said of Farquharson.
Lloyd said Farquharson offered to take the two young girls to Spain, where they would go to school, make friends and host their mother for frequent visits.
Lloyd was 11 and Holly was 7. There also was a preschool-age girl, Alex, who Farquharson had adopted in Hong Kong.
In Spain, the girls were not allowed to go to school and had limited exposure to anyone outside the house, Lloyd said. Instead, they were forced to work.
Any contact with their mother was limited and manipulated, Lloyd said. The girls' mother was convinced Farquharson was a god.
"I don't know if my mum was just desperate and she would believe anything, but she told us that we were her disciples," Lloyd said.
Farquharson and the girls moved from Spain to Union County in 2001.
Lloyd said she and her sisters were given caffeine pills to stay awake so they could work. She recalls installing fences in the dark and working as many as 20 hours a day.
Lloyd said the girls cleaned the house, cooked meals from scratch and took care of as many as 22 dogs and 100 chickens. Keeping the house clean was particularly tough because some chickens were kept indoors. She described horrible living conditions and beatings, and said the girls were too fearful and isolated to seek help.
But help came in 2005, when a neighbor reported suspicious activities that were investigated by the Department of Social Services.
Lloyd and her sister, Holly, were old enough to be considered adults, but Alex, whose relationship as their sister was unofficial but strong, went into foster care. All three eventually were taken in by a strong, loving family.
Farquharson left the U.S. after the DSS visit. She was indicted by a federal grand jury in 2006 and arrested in Bulgaria in 2009. The indictment said Farquharson had forced the girls to work as domestic slaves.
In November, charges against her were dismissed because she was declared incompetent to stand trial.
The court ordered Farquharson be forced to return to the United Kingdom.
Asked how she feels about the dismissal, Lloyd says, "It is what it is."
Lloyd said she is ready to move on to the next chapter in her life, which includes writing the book with her sisters and continuing her education.
Lloyd earned her GED at South Piedmont Community College and is a certified nurse assistant. She works part-time at Jessie Helms Nursing Center and hopes eventually to earn a nursing degree. She's also taking voice lessons at Wingate University.
Holly is married and a student at Johnson & Wales; Alex is a student at Elon University.
Lloyd attributes her positive attitude to her adoptive family, her friends, her church family at Lee Park Baptist Church in Monroe and to biblical scripture in Romans 8:28: "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose."
With a smile, Lloyd says, "We believe that."