Meet the police officer who made history and saved a young Yorkshire woman from the clutches of her controlling parents

PC Abigail Fox-Greenwood, who works as part of the Leeds District Safeguarding Team.
PC Abigail Fox-Greenwood, who works as part of the Leeds District Safeguarding Team.
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July 12, 2016 started as a normal day for police officer Abigail Fox Greenwood, who works as part of the Leeds District Safeguarding Team.

Little did she know she would soon be tasked with investigating a case that would change history.

READ MORE: Children as young as 13 saved from clutches of forced marriage across Yorkshire

A call had come in to West Yorkshire Police the previous day, from a young man reporting his girlfriend had been taken to Bangladesh for what he said was an arranged marriage that she was being forced into.

PC Fox-Greenwood said: "I was allocated the live job when I got into the office that day.

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"I had dealt with a case a couple of years previously where we managed to intercept a young girl travelling to Afghanistan through a joint investigation with social services, but it soon became apparent that this investigation was on a whole other scale.

"We were in touch and working with the Global Research Centre at the Home Office and it was a case of communicating with the young lady in Bangladesh via her phone and Whats App. This was done with the assistance of the Forced Marriage Unit, who contacted the British High Commission in Bangladesh.

READ MORE: A timeline of events that saw West Yorkshire Police shape history in tackling forced marriage

"We managed to have an open line of communication with her whilst she was out there and we assessed her risk as high. She was being chaperoned around everywhere. She was scared she was going to be physically assaulted and she was actually physically assaulted.

"At that point, the British High Commission made the decision to complete a dynamic rescue of her."

The rescue - the first of its kind in this county - was completed by Consular Officers who had travelled out to Bangladesh on July 15, 2016 - just four days after the call was made to West Yorkshire Police.

Read more: Leeds case a milestone in battle to halt forced marriages

The young woman was brought back to the UK two days later and PC Fox-Greenwood travelled to Heathrow Airport to meet her.

She recalls: "I was stood there at the airport waiting for her and it was such a relief to know she was safe.

"This was when I saw her at her most vulnerable. Understandably she was weak and scared and she needed our help."

Now the young woman was safe, for PC Fox-Greenwood and her team it was a case of sifting through 75,000 pages of downloaded phone records and other evidence to ensure the woman's parents were brought to justice.

This was no easy task.

On July 20, she travelled to Heathrow Airport and arrested the young woman's parents.

She said: "I travelled down to Heathrow and arrested them, but then the hard work really started.

"We needed to obtain all the evidence to really be able to form a package to go to the Crown Prosecution Service to get a charge.

"A lot of the evidence we needed was in Bangladesh, but with the assistance of the Foreign Commonwealth Office and the Embassy staff we were able to do this."

PC Fox-Greenwood would travel to Bangladesh twice - once towards the end of 2016 and in early 2017 - to gather more vital evidence and speak to witnesses out there.

She said: "I wasn't willing to let it drop and had the best support available from my managers at the time. My sergeant and superintendent were incredible and just trusted me, which was a massive drive for me and they believed in my capabilities.

"There was an incredible amount of pressure, but not from the organisation. that is always in your mind though that you want to do them proud, but my pressure was I didn't want the young woman to think I had let her down as she had put her trust in me."

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Through the hard work of PC Fox-Greenwood, the young woman's parents were charged with forced marriage offences and appeared for the first time at Leeds Magistrates Court in July 2017.

They were convicted on May 29, 2018 following a three week trial.

The father was sentenced to four-and-a-half years and the mother for three-and-a-half years at Leeds Crown Court on July 20, 2018

PC Fox-Greenwood said: "In terms of the case as a whole, my proudest moment was this incredible young woman standing up for herself to explain what had happened.

"It gives so much confidence to other people. I have had more calls since the conviction where people have asked to speak to me directly. they have read our twitter feed and forced marriage page on police website. given it a platform for people to ring in. I am just so proud of her."

The whole investigation, entitled Operation Axledale, took 25 months from start to finish.

PC Fox-Greenwood describes how the case also affected her personally.

She said: "I was branded racist in the family matters by the defendants, which everyone can say I am not, but to be called it was shocking and really hurtful.

"I also got married during the investigation and actually cancelled a week of her honeymoon. I felt like I couldn't be away at such a crucial time."

PC Fox-Greenwood is still in regular contact with the young woman.

She said: "She's doing really well now, I am so proud of her.

"She has been through the most horrendous experience of her life and she just keeps on going. She is an incredible young woman."

The victim credits PC Fox-Greenwood for saving her life.

She said: "Abby will be in my life forever.

"She is the police officer who helped me, maybe helped is too weak of a word and saved is better. She saved me. She never judged me, she has allowed me to flourish, stopped me feeling scared and allowed me to start and learn how to trust. It is quite simple, without Abby I wouldn’t be here."

The investigation, known as Operation Axledale, was recognised at this years West Yorkshire Police Awards and won the Adams McGill Award for Protection of Vulnerable Victims.

Read more: A job like no other! Meet the winners of the West Yorkshire Police Awards 2019

The police officer said: "I never thought we would win anything and perhaps I thought I didn't deserve to because for me the investigation is part of my job. I didn't do anything that i wouldn't do for anyone else. I think when you are in the magnitude of it doesn't really sink in. I was honoured that people thought so highly of the work we did."

PC Fox-Greenwood now works tirelessly to raise awareness of forced marriage.

She said: "We are always carrying out training and awareness to different agencies and other professionals.

"We try our best to spread the message that it is not acceptable and we are here to help, it's not just about prosecution.

"There are organisations and charities out there like Karma Nirvana that can help."

PC Fox-Greenwood also advises that there are some signs to look out for.

She said: "The signs are not too dissimilar to that of grooming and child sexual exploitation.

"Be aware of people going missing for long periods of time and not engaging like they used to.

"They can be quite secretive, but if anyone has any concerns, please do let the police know.

"If you are being forced into something, tell someone. It doesn't mean us sending your parents to prison. We want to keep you safe and we don't want it to get to the situation where you are out of the country and being threatened with your life.

"Quite simply, you are not forced to love somebody, so don't be forced to marry someone. It is about you. You have rights and you have options. We live in a democracy where you have those options and don't let anyone force you into something you don't want to."

Follow @WYP_Forced2Love for further information.