Wrapped in blankets almost up to her eyes, Liana's barely visible. Naz, her husband, met us at the door with a roll of the eyes, as if to say here we go again. It takes a few minutes before we coax the first words out of her and longer still until we could calm her breathing enough to be able to have a conversation. A little boy of about three, a mix of Middle Eastern features and Eastern European pallor, runs around the house without a care in the world. Every few minutes he would come back in to check on what was happening and satisfied that there was nothing untoward, would go back to playing.
Naz never left the room for more than a few seconds at a time. He stood by the door, watching our every move, listening to every word.
"Is Liana on any medication?" I ask him.
"Only some painkillers when she needs them."
"Do you have the packet?"
"I'll go and find it."
The moment he leaves, Liana moves the blankets a little away from her face.
"Liana, do you want to tell us what's wrong? What's got you so upset?"
She shakes her head so violently that the straight-flowing tears suddenly zigzag their way down her cheeks. But she can't bring herself to say it. She just looks in the direction of the door and a shiver runs through her. When Naz comes back, I suggest that we need to do some more checks in the ambulance.
"I'll come with you." It's a demand rather than a request.
"Why don't you stay here with the little one, we'll just be a few minutes, do a few checks, then we can decide what the best plan is."
Reluctantly, he agrees, but tells us he would just get their son ready and then he would be down too. In the time it takes him to find coats and shoes, we've already got half a story and realise that we need to get Liana away from home. She told us a little of the terror she faces at home every day, how she's not allowed friends, how her family have been kept away, how the threats of harming their child make sure she's kept on a short leash. Before she can tell us any more, the door to the ambulance swings open and Liana jumps in fear.
"Well, what are you doing with her? She doesn't need hospital, you know. She just needs to get back home and calm down. She's always doing this."
"Where's your boy?"
He shuffles slightly aside to show us a frightened shell of a child, totally different from the one we met upstairs.
"I think we need to take Liana to hospital. Her pulse and blood pressure are a little concerning, so we want a doctor to look at her." It's a white lie, one we hoped was real enough for him to accept.
"You're sure, yes?"
"Can I come with you?"
"Why don't you come in your car, then you've got a way of coming home?"
"Fine. But I don't want this child crying all the way there. You can take him too."
"Not a problem. We'll look after them both. We're only going to the nearest hospital."
"I'll be a few minutes behind you. I go to the emergency department?"
For the few minutes in the ambulance, Liana was silent. Her little boy had calmed down a little, a combination of glove balloons and a bottle of bubbles easing his fears. He even managed a laugh when one of the bubbles flew up to the roof of the ambulance, drifted slowly down and suddenly popped on his nose. As we arrive at the hospital, an all too familiar queue appears in front of us, with two other crews and their patients waiting for triage. It gives us some more time to talk, but Liana chooses to keep quiet.
As we reach the front of the line, I have one final chance.
"Has he ever hit you?"
A single tear escapes and rolls down her face, as a confused little boy wipes it away for her. She leans forward, kisses him on the head and lifts the back of her shirt. She's black and blue from top to bottom. Belt marks, cigarette burns and crude, jagged cuts cover her entire back.
"Please don't tell anyone. Please!" Her plea is barely audible, no more than a tormented whisper.
"Liana, I don't have a choice. Some of these wounds need treatment. I have to tell the nurse."
After more tears and pleads, once we promise that both she and her little boy will be looked after, she finally agrees. Having waited almost half an hour, we hand over just as Naz walks into the department and immediately all the eyes turn on him.
"You told them, didn't you? I told you what would happen if you told anyone!" His screams make every other person in the department turn around and make me clutch on to the little boy. "What are you all looking at? She deserved it!"
A security guard hurries over and after a bit of a struggle promptly removes Naz from the department, all the while calling for police over the radio. Liana breathes a sigh of relief and holds on tightly to her little boy who I've handed back into familiar arms.