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Sufiah Yusof , genius prostitute

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    Child genius and now prostitute: Sufiah Yusof attended Oxford University at just age 13 By KATHRYN KNIGHT 5th April 2008
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 5, 2008
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      Child genius and now prostitute: Sufiah Yusof attended Oxford
      University at just age 13

      5th April 2008

      Until a week ago, her
      instinct was always the
      same: any time she was
      away from home, Halimahton
      Yusof would scan the
      streets, hoping to catch a
      glimpse of her daughter's face.

      "I always looked for her. For the past few
      years I didn't even know whether she was
      alive," she says, her eyes moist with tears.

      "Every time there was a story on the news
      about an accident, or a death, I feared the
      worst. I just wanted to know she was alive."

      Then, last weekend, she got the confirmation
      she desperately craved — although in an
      unimaginably sad way.

      Halimahton, a devout
      Muslim, was confronted by graphic Sunday
      newspaper pictures of her daughter selling sex
      from the dingy basement of a Salford flat.

      Styling herself "Shilpa Lee", it emerged
      23-year-old Sufiah Yusof was advertising her
      services on the internet as a £130-a-time prostitute.
      It would be a distressing discovery for any
      mother, but for Mrs Yusof it is all the more

      Ten years ago, the girl she still calls "Sufi" was admitted to
      Oxford University to study
      maths, at the age of 13 the
      youngest undergraduate to do so
      at the time.

      Brilliant and determined, she
      seemed destined for great things
      — expectations that were brutally
      dashed when she ran away at the
      age of 15 and asked to be admitted
      into the care of social services.

      In a bitter email to her elder
      sister Aisha, she accused her
      father Farooq of making her childhood
      a "living hell" by "hothousing"
      her in pursuit of academic success.

      There have been many more
      twists and turns to Sufiah's story
      since then, too.

      Just three years
      ago, aged 20, she was back living
      at the family home, apparently
      reconciled with her father.

      Yet within weeks, a bitter argument
      over something minor — the
      family don't know what — led her
      to flee again, and she has not seen
      her mother or siblings since.

      Until their discovery last weekend, none
      of them knew where she was or
      what she was doing.

      Nor is this the only
      unsettling development.

      Just a week
      before Sufiah was
      unmasked on Sunday,
      her father Farooq was jailed for 18
      months after pleading guilty at
      Coventry Crown Court to two
      charges of sexually assaulting two
      15-year-old girls.

      Scroll down for more...


      Seeds of despair: Sufiah in 1997 on her first day at Oxford with her
      father Farooq and sister Aisha

      Halimahton is in the process of
      divorcing Farooq, her pride having
      finally forced her to act against the
      man with whom she shared her life
      for more than 30 years.

      She has had to ask herself
      difficult questions about whether
      she could have done more to
      safeguard Sufiah from the expectations
      of the domineering Farooq.

      "I was shaking when I found out
      what had become of her," she says
      in her first interview since her
      daughter's lifestyle was exposed.

      "No mother expects that, and
      part of me is haunted by the
      notion we had driven her to that.

      "I have no idea what is going on in
      her mind, but I refuse to judge her
      and I want her to know my door is
      always open, that I am here for her.

      "We have been through so much,
      but I have to believe that at some
      point in the future we can become
      a family again."

      All week she has
      been trying to reach her daughter,
      but Sufiah's old mobile number has been ringing unanswered.

      Halimahton says: "I haven't seen
      the pictures in the papers, and I
      don't want to see them. My sons
      have told me it's not good for my
      heart. I want to think of her as I
      remember her.

      "I have no idea why she's doing
      this, whether she's trying to make
      her father angry or whether it's
      just desperation.

      "I only wish I
      knew her state of mind but she
      asked me to let go of her and I did.

      "I asked my solicitor if there is
      anything I can do to help her, but
      she's an adult and beyond my
      reach. I can only pray that she
      comes to her senses.

      "My friends are shocked but they
      remember our relationship, how
      close we were and they have told
      me she needs help."

      So does she lay the blame at her
      husband's door?

      "I'm not the
      blaming kind. There's no use
      trying to point the finger. All I can
      hope is Farooq and Sufi look at
      themselves and sort out the issues
      they have. Deep in her heart, Sufi
      is a kind and gentle girl and I just
      hope she finds her true self again."

      One comfort is that with the
      exception of Sufiah and now
      Farooq, the family remain close.

      Three of Halimahton's other
      children — Abraham, 26, Iskander,
      21, and 14-year-old Zuleika — live
      at the comfortable five-bedroom
      family home on the outskirts of
      Coventry, while her eldest daughter
      Aisha, 25, lives nearby with her
      husband and visits regularly.

      All fiercely intelligent — Iskander
      attended Warwick University from
      the age of 12, and Aisha at the age
      of 15 — they seem to have escaped
      the tortured circumstances their
      sister finds herself in, and do not
      seem a dysfunctional clan.

      The house is warm and comfortable,
      strewn with the usual
      paraphernalia of family life.


      2004: She marries Jonathan Marshall

      At its
      centre, Halimahton clearly retains
      a close bond with her children.
      Yet it is within this same family
      that, as a teenager, Sufiah, in that
      angry email written after she had
      run away from Oxford, claimed
      she had been subjected to "years
      of physical and emotional abuse".

      Her father, she said, bullied his
      children intellectually and physically,
      flying into fits of rage if he felt
      they were not working hard

      The routine was so
      effective that at 12 Sufiah had
      already passed three A-levels.

      Today, her siblings agree their father could be difficult but insist
      he was not fundamentally violent.

      "It was like he had something to
      prove, as if he wanted to use us to
      get back at the world," Iskander, a
      computer programmer, says.

      "He would be fine but then he
      would scream and shout. It was
      the thought of it that scared us as
      much as it happening."

      On occasions
      he smacked them.

      For a woman clearly devoted to
      her children, it seems odd Halimahton
      did not intervene — but
      while she considered leaving, she
      felt trapped by financial worries
      and the belief that her husband, at
      heart, had good intentions.

      Theirs was not the most
      conventional of romances.

      Halimahton, 51, had
      arrived in this country
      from her native Malaysia
      as a 19-year-old to take up a
      sponsored study course at Oxford
      College of Further Education.

      Within months she had met
      Farooq Yusof, also a student who
      was living in the same block of
      rented accommodation.

      Both Muslim,
      the couple quickly married in a
      small ceremony in Oxford in 1975.

      By the mid-Eighties, they had
      produced four children, who were
      all remarkably bright, but Sufiah
      particularly so.

      "When she was barely 18 months
      she could sing whole nursery

      "She could recognise numbers
      and letters at ten months old,
      and do a 20-piece jigsaw upside

      "Farooq said she was a little
      genius even when she was a baby."

      Eventually all the children were
      home-schooled, after Sufiah had
      told her mother at the age of five: "I
      don't like it at school, I want you
      to teach me."

      Her siblings
      apparently felt the same.

      But life at home was under a dark

      In 1989, Farooq had gone on
      the run, implicated in a £1.5million
      mortgage fraud, leaving Halimahton
      alone to rear four children.

      "I didn't even have the energy to
      be angry with him," she says. "I was
      exhausted trying to make ends
      meet and look after the kids."

      Three years later, in 1992, her
      husband was arrested on his
      return to this country and given a
      three-year prison sentence for
      obtaining mortgages by deception.

      When he was released, there was
      inevitably a difficult period of occurred to me to separate, but I had
      this belief that children need both
      parents,' Halimahton says.

      "In hindsight, I can see this was
      perhaps the wrong decision, but I
      kept asking myself: 'If I was one of
      the children, what would I want?'

      "I was exhausted, and I had four children
      who I felt needed their father."

      Within months of Farooq's return
      she had conceived again, later giving
      birth to daughter Zuleika, now 14.

      "Farooq could be difficult and I
      would try to talk to him, but I would
      not have picked Sufi out as suffering
      — she was the one who got criticised
      least," she says.

      "But I realise now she
      kept everything bottled up."

      Nonetheless, it is not difficult to
      imagine the impact this pressured
      environment had on a clever adolescent

      So brilliant was Sufiah
      that by 12, she had been accepted to
      study maths at Oxford.

      "Whenever we asked her, she was
      adamant she wanted to go,"
      Halimahton says.

      But the family did
      not take into account the fact that
      Sufiah was still a child — on the day
      she enrolled she chipped her front
      tooth while riding on a seesaw.

      When asked how she was coping
      with her degree, Sufiah would maintain
      she was "fine".

      In fact, she was
      struggling under what she felt was an
      increasing pressure to perform.

      "My father found out she had not
      been doing as well as he hoped and
      he took it very badly," Iskander says.

      "He became obsessed with her
      getting back on track. For Sufi it only
      exacerbated the pressure she put on
      herself. She felt she couldn't get away
      from him."

      But any danger signals passed by
      largely unnoticed by the family until it
      was too late.

      On June 22, 2000, the day
      she should have boarded a train home
      from Oxford after finishing her third
      year exams, Sufiah got on a train to
      the South Coast instead, leaving
      most of her possessions behind.

      "I had spoken to her in the morning
      and she sounded flat, which I couldn't
      understand. I offered to pick her
      up and she said: 'I'm OK momma,
      I'll make my own way.'"

      And she did, to Bournemouth,
      where she found work as a waitress,
      finding the time to send that bitter
      email to her parents.

      When traced by the police three
      weeks later, she asked to be taken
      into foster care. It was a desperate
      time for her mother.

      "I was deeply upset," she says. "I
      didn't understand why it had got to
      this, why she had not tried to talk to

      "But I didn't want to fight her. I
      thought: 'If she's unhappy, let her go,
      let her do what she needs to do.'

      "My main concern was that she was safe."

      Halimahton's eyes fill with tears,
      her thoughts tormented by what
      might have been.

      "Maybe this was a
      mistake. Perhaps if I had been firmer,
      then perhaps what has happened
      now, well …"

      In fact, there was to be reconciliation:
      Sufiah was happy to allow her
      mother and siblings to visit her, but
      not her father.

      "If I tried to talk to her
      about what had happened, she would say: "It's fine now, I don't want
      to upset you", her mother recalls.

      Sufiah seemed to be getting back on
      her feet.

      She was studying again at
      the local college, and talked of going
      back to Oxford, returning aged 18 to
      take the final year of her four-year

      There, shortly after arrival, she met
      Jonathan Marshall, a law student
      four years her senior.

      He converted
      to Islam for the sake of his young
      girlfriend, and the couple married
      within months.

      With her newfound happiness,
      Sufiah agreed to introduce her fiancé
      to her father after three years of

      "She was anxious, I could see, but
      it all unfolded very calmly," Halimahton

      "Her father hugged
      her and she hugged him back."

      All the family attended
      the civil wedding dinner
      in July 2004, and when, in
      the spring of 2005,
      Jonathan was posted to
      Singapore on a short-term job contract,
      Sufiah, who had been working
      for a building contractor in Oxford,
      moved back to the family home.

      The events of the past, however,
      were clearly never far from her mind:
      her brother Iskander recalls how,
      during one emotional discussion, his
      sister demanded an apology from her
      father for his behaviour in the past.

      "He said he was sorry, and she
      seemed happy with that, but I
      remember wondering if it was
      enough," he says.

      It clearly wasn't.
      Within days, an argument was
      sparked between Sufiah and her
      father and she packed her bags and
      left the family home for good.

      had a row and I heard Farooq tell her
      to shut up, then within minutes she
      had packed her bags and was out the
      door," Halimahton recalls.

      "I rang her and she was getting a
      train to London. She said: 'I'm fed
      up with him, he needs psychiatric

      Astonishingly, she has had no
      verbal contact with her daughter

      Voicemails and emails passed
      unanswered, the only contact a terse
      email, sent in August 2005, in which
      Sufiah revealed that she and her husband
      Jonathan were separated.

      She said she wanted no further
      contact with any member of her
      family under any circumstances.

      "I felt numb," Halimahton says. "I
      didn't understand why she felt this
      way. I always thought her quarrel was
      with her father, not us.

      "But I knew it
      was pointless to fight her, I had to
      respect her decision. I could only
      hope she would come back to us."

      So far, of course, that hasn't

      Instead, Sufiah has gone
      down the most depressing path
      imaginable, reduced to selling her
      body to strangers — presumably to
      fund an economics course she is
      pursuing in London.

      It seems the
      final desperate act of a profoundly
      troubled girl, who can only have been
      further distressed by news of her
      father's recent misdemeanors.

      Halimahton is as bewildered by her
      husband's conviction as she is her
      daughter's behaviour.

      "At first I
      thought there must have been a
      mistake," she says. "There was never
      anything to suggest..." she blinks.

      "I thought these two girls weren't
      telling the truth. But after he pleaded
      guilty, I had to accept they were. I
      have to accept he has confessed."

      His incarceration has, at least,
      encouraged Halimahton to divorce

      And without Farooq in the
      house, Halimahton hopes Sufiah
      might feel able to return — and that
      she might finally be able to prise
      from her daughter quite how her
      upbringing came to wreak such
      psychological damage.

      For now, however, it seems the
      brilliant little girl who could do jigsaw
      puzzles as a baby remains hopelessly
      incapable of pulling together
      the pieces of her own fractured life.



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