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Bounty hunters hunt for Asian runaways

PTI | ByVijay Dutt, London
May 12, 2004 02:52 PM IST

Professional bounty hunters have sprung up in cities to track down Asian women who run away from their families, reports Vijay Dutt.

It has become big and very lucrative business, tracking down and punishing Asian women who run away from their families. Professional bounty hunters have sprung up in cities like Leeds and Bradford where there is a large concentration of Asian communities.

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Earlier these bounty hunters used to be from Asian communities, but now with the "business" burgeoning into hundreds of thousands of pound enterprise even white males, and women too, are setting up "offices". They demand and get paid huge amounts.

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Women hunters are now more in demand because they have greater accessibility and are normally not suspected of being ruthless operatives. They succeed in winning the trust of women in trouble.

Most women flee because of the threat of forced marriage, domestic violence or sexual abuse. They now face greater threat and torture from bounty hunters. A police officer, expert on forced marriages, said these hunters were basically unlicensed thugs and do not hesitate to use violence to force runaways to submit. Most families are not even aware, or ignore the fact, that most hunters use excessive force and torture their targets.

Authorities say that the increasing number of marriages breaking up and cultural clash between generations are the reasons for the phenomenal rise in the number of bounty hunters and their fee. They pay taxi drivers, shop owners and also keep watch at post offices where runaways on social welfare go to collect their payments. They also show pictures of the runaways to helps at refuge centres and homes.

A couple, Zena and Jack Briggs (names changed) had to move home 27 times,  since their secret wedding in 1994. Zena's Bradford-based family hired a bounty hunter to avenge family's "honour",even kill if need be. The hunters could not trace them but kept threatening Jack's mother. Although 10 years have passed, the death threat still hangs over the couple.

Some are unable to hide for long. Heavily pregnant Anita Gindha, 22, was found strangled in her London home last April. Her death is being treated as "honour" killing. The problem, say police officials and social workers, is that runaways seldom talk to them.

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