Social services were aware of allegations of physical abuse suffered by a Zimbabwean teenage girl at the hands of her step-mother - at least months before she fell pregnant by her father.
That is the claim of a source close to the Luton family, which has been torn apart by years of alleged abuse endured by its daughters, one of whom was kept by her father as a 'sex slave' before giving birth to his child.
Bedfordshire Police, who are investigating the case, have notified Interpol they want to question the father after he fled last summer to Botswana. At that time the daughter discovered she was pregnant but did not want to have an abortion - despite her father demanding that she have one. She gave birth earlier this year.
A source close to the family has claimed that Luton Borough Council became aware of abuse allegations following an incident in which another daughter needed stitches for a head injury after being allegedly beaten by her step-mother.
It is unclear exactly when this incident took place but our source said it was 'at least months' before the daughter fell pregnant. The source said police arrested the step-mother and questioned her at Luton Police Station before releasing her without charge. The source said that it was at this point that social services were alerted to the case and a social worker visited the family. The step-mother left the country for Botswana in May of this year.
International award-winning human rights activist Betty Makoni, chief executive of Girl Child Network (GCN) which campaigns worldwide to raise awareness about the plight of young rape victims, believes the pregnancy could have been prevented if the authorities had acted more quickly.
"I'm not happy with how this case was handled by the authorities. There was every indication that the children were at risk and any professional could have picked it up. We demand an explanation of why this was allowed to happen. Now the alleged rapist is a danger to girls in Africa, they have not protected the children in this case and we at the GCN demand that he be brought to justice on behalf of girls in the UK and girls worldwide. From my understanding the time when one of the sisters was beaten was the same period that the other sister was being raped. That's the worst neglect of a child because once a child is injured it means her health and social needs are as important as her physical needs,"
she added: "We are so disappointed that at that stage the authorities didn't pick it up or move swiftly. When she was pregnant she couldn't make any decisions, the people around her made it for her. In these cases it's almost as if there is a social contract between her and father that means she cannot bring shame to the family. She was conditioned to the sexual abuse and she is not aware of how criminal it is. It's kind of like a slave mentality where she will do anything and has self blame."
It is police procedure for international security services to be alerted once anybody wanted on suspicion of a criminal offence leaves the country. A spokesman for the police said: "This investigation is still on going and we are working in partnership with other agencies. Therefore it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.
"Any further release of information could prejudice any future investigation in this case or potential court proceedings. I would reassure the community that a thorough investigation is being undertaken and should they have concerns they should contact the police directly. All victims of sexual assaults are entitled to anonymity by law. We have already circulated details of this case via the security services ie Interpol."
A council spokesman said: "An alleged incident like this would be subject to a police investigation so it would be inappropriate for us to make any comment." Luton on Sunday