A married couple in northwestern Bosnia has been detained for allegedly enslaving a young German girl who was tortured and kept imprisoned for eight years, police have said. 

A neighbour who alerted authorities he witnessed the couple treating the girl, now 19, like an animal, forcing her to eat pig feed and pull a horse-cart carrying them.

Milenko and Slavojka Marinkovic were arrested at their home in a village in the northwestern Tuzla region after police received the tip-off from their neighbour.

"They kept her locked up, neither allowing her contact with other people, nor to go to school," Admir Arnautovic, a police spokesman, told reporters. "They subjected her to inhumane treatment and torture."

The couple were arrested on May 17, but police on Sunday said they could not reveal further details of the case. State prosecutors were not available for comment.

The abused girl, who has not been named, has been placed in a safe house and was receiving medical treatment, investigators were quoted as saying.

Local media said that she was found by police in a forest and was suffering physical and psychological trauma.

Alleged abuse

They also reported allegations of sexual abuse, quoting neighbours saying they heard the girl screaming and crying.

They said she could have been abused by friends of the Marinkovic family who visited them regularly.

Makalic said he remembered the German girl appearing in the village of Karavlasi with her mother and two sisters but did not take much notice of her arrival.

"At the time I was helping them [the Marinkovic couple] to build their house and I did not pay attention," Makalic said.

Years later, he said he saw her eating pumpkin and corn grain used to feed the couple's pigs.

One day, he said, he saw them make her pull a horse-cart "while they were sitting on it".

"They put her in place of the horse and were laughing," he said.

According to Makalic, the couple were from a "Roma family in which several brothers lived together, often traveling to Germany and Austria".

He said he had tried to alert police earlier, but added that "when the police came they hid her very well".

Police alerted

Earlier this year, he said had not seen her for about a year and was told by the couple that she was in Germany.

"When I saw her again on May 15, I took a picture of her with my mobile telephone and went to alert the police," he said.

Local media reported that the girl had arrived in Bosnia from Germany eight years ago with her mother, identified only as Kristina, and that she married Milenko Marinkovic to help him obtain a residence permit in Germany.

The mother has lived between Karavlasi and Germany for several years and was in the village at the time of the arrests, media reports said.

Local media reported that the girl's mother could have entered into a sham marriage with Milenko Marinkovic to allow him to obtain a German residency permit.

Source: Agencies