BBQ queen Shiela Mcaleer and her husband Joshua were cooking up a storm at their restaurants when police allege they held a woman as a slave.
BBQ queen Shiela Mcaleer and her husband Joshua were cooking up a storm at their restaurants when police allege they held a woman as a slave.

Married restaurateurs charged with keeping slave

A Filipino barbecue queen and a Sydney businessman are facing shocking allegations they kept a female tourist as a slave at their home for more than three years.

Joshua Mcaleer, 46 and his wife Shiela, 37, have been charged with forced labour with police alleging they hired a Filipino woman as a nanny for three months in May 2013 before confiscating her passport and forcing her to work as their carer and cleaner.

The Australian Federal Police will also allege the woman was forced to work long hours without pay in Shiela Mcaleer's food and retail business Kapamilya.

Shiela Mcaleer now runs several Kapamilya grocery stores across Sydney with dine-in and takeaway fresh food, catering and wholesale distribution.

Shiela Mcaleer, 37, at Kapamilya.
Shiela Mcaleer, 37, at Kapamilya.

The woman was allegedly unable to leave the couple's Rockdale home unsupervised until she finally escaped in October 2016.

Police will also allege the Mcaleers told the woman she would have to repay a debt by continuing to work for them unpaid after she had a medical procedure at Sutherland Hospital.

The Mcaleers were both charged with forcing a person into labour, harbouring an unlawful non-citizen and making a false statement for health benefits.

Shiela Mcaleer was also charged with deceiving the young woman into exploitation.

The maximum potential penalty for forcing a person into labour is 12 years' imprisonment.

The pair came to the AFP's attention after an alleged incident involving Shiela Mcaleer and the alleged victim.

Joshua Mcaleer refused to comment on the allegations at Downing Centre Local Court on Tuesday before his lawyer interjected.

Joshua McAleer at Downing Centre Local Court. Picture: Eliza Barr
Joshua McAleer at Downing Centre Local Court. Picture: Eliza Barr

"It's before the courts, no comment," the solicitor said.

Shiela McAleer rose to local foodie fame after Kapamilya and its unique brand of traditional Filipino cuisine expanded from Rockdale into Fairfield and Marrickville.

In a recent feature on a Sydney arts and culture website Shiela Mcaleer said she migrated from the Philippines to Tokyo when she was 17 before she settled in Sydney.

She wooed local residents with classic and unique Filipino barbecue dishes such as pork skewers, chicken and pork intestines, cubes of chicken-blood jelly, spice-and-tomato stuffed squid.

The restaurant also serves up dishes such as pumpkin, crab and coconut curry, taro leaves simmered in coconut milk, and semi-developed duck eggs.

The Mcaleers will return to court in 2020. Picture: Eliza Barr
The Mcaleers will return to court in 2020. Picture: Eliza Barr

Joshua Mcaleer was previously employed as the general manager at Gymea Tradies, the duty manager at the Crows Nest Hotel and as the general manager at the Grosvenor Club.

An online profile showed he recently studied a Diploma of Hospitality as well as a Certificate III and IV.

The pair will return to Downing Centre Local Court to finalise the charges against them on February 4 next year.



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