Bullying Rookes are the living proof that slavery, society’s greatest shame, still exists

A scene from highly-acclaimed new movie 12 Years A Slave, featuring Chiwetel Ejiofor
A scene from highly-acclaimed new movie 12 Years A Slave, featuring Chiwetel Ejiofor
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“There is no sin. A man does as he pleases with his property.”

A quote from 12 Years A Slave, the epic movie billed as the greatest film ever made.

A quote from 12 Years A Slave, the epic movie billed as the greatest film ever made.

A scene from 12 YEARS A SLAVE featuring Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup.

A scene from 12 YEARS A SLAVE featuring Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup.

But the blithe declaration of the most brutal of the slave owners, Edwin Epps, could so easily have been uttered (in somewhat different language) by an ice cream van man from Parson Cross.

As the Oscar front-runner, “the most vivid and authentic portrayal of American slavery ever captured on screen” opens in UK cinemas tomorrow, David and Donna Rooke and their son Jamie, 19, are behind bars for their disgusting treatment of a man they forced to become their personal “slave” and whipping boy.

The abuse Craig Kinsella endured beggars belief. They starved him and beat him, made him live in the garage with a bucket for a toilet and work 16-hour days unpaid.

The Rookes, so ironically caught by their own CCTV cameras after a neighbour reported them to police, are reviled by the nation. Their sickeningly inhumane treatment of a defenceless man makes you question how far we haven’t come since 1841, when Solomon Northup, a New York State-born free man who was kidnapped in Washington D.C. and sold into slavery for twelve years.

The likes of the Rookes are few. But exist they do. In November we reeled at the news of three women who had lived captive in South London. Britain is waking up to the fact that, hidden behind the net curtains of a supposedly civilised society live despicable people like the Rookes. Basically bullies, they enjoy the feeling of power they get from terrorising individuals they have earmarked as weak and defenceless (those the rest of society protect).

The film 12 Years A Slave has been lauded by critics; millions will flock to see it. As they leave their cinema seats, they should think on the modern-day Solomons living in misery, And remember that Craig Kinsella’s plight was only uncovered because someone in Parson Cross had the decency to speak up.