Little Circus of Horrors

Earlier this week, Reuters reported that Italian police had rescued a Bulgarian family of four from a circus in Petina, southern Italy, who were being kept captive and forced to do unconscionable things.

Police, who had been tipped off by an appalled spectator, found the mother working as a cook on site, while the father ran maintenance. Their two daughters, Giusi and Olga were part of the entertainment.

The circus’ idea of entertainment involved having the eldest girl swim with flesh-eating piranhas in a tank as her younger sister, Olga, was draped in snakes and tarantulas in another container.

Police reported the 16-year-old had been bitten by snakes and had sustained injuries in her midsection were the snakes had wrapped too tightly around her. The owners had used an ointment on the bites on her legs but had flatly refused to take her to a doctor.

For these horrors, and work-days ranging from 15 to 20 hours, the family received €100 (£78, US $155.80) per week instead of the promised €480. The other €380 were deducted as “expenses for their upkeep,” which meant lodgings in a cockroach-infested trailer used to transport animals and meager rations. Attempts to escape had been made and resulted in severe beatings. The owner’s daughter, who was not named, told police that the family had been held “in a state of fear” since January.

The three Italians who ran the circus, Enrico Raffaele Ingrassia, 57, the owner; his son William Ingrassia, 33; and his son-in-law, Gaetano Belfiore, 25, were arrested and charged with holding the family in slavery as well as breaching international human rights conventions.

Read the articles in Reuters and the TimesOnline UK.

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