Thursday, November 21, 2013

Women 'Held As Slaves For 30 years'

Three women have been "rescued" from a south London house as police investigate claims they were held as slaves for at least 30 years.

Police arrested a 67-year-old man and a 67-year-old woman in Lambeth.

Last month officers were contacted by Freedom Charity after it received a call from a woman saying she had been held against her will for decades.

A Malaysian woman, 69, an Irish woman, 57, and a British woman, 30, were rescued from the house on 25 October.

The women, who are said to be "highly traumatised", are now in safe accommodation.

Police said they were not related to each other and the 30-year-old had spent her whole life in captivity. Officers are trying to establish whether she was born in the house.

Det Insp Kevin Hyland, from the Metropolitan Police's Human Trafficking Unit, said: "We have seen some cases when people have been held for 10 years, but we have never seen anything of this magnitude before."

He added that the women had controlled lives and spent most of it indoors, but they had some freedom.

Police said the facts behind the situation were being slowly established as specialist workers were assisting the women. Officers said there was no evidence of sexual abuse.

"We applaud the actions of Freedom Charity and are working in partnership to support these victims who appear to have been held for over 30 years," Mr Hyland said.

"We have launched an extensive investigation to establish the facts surrounding these very serious allegations.

"A television documentary on forced marriages relating to the work of Freedom Charity was the catalyst that prompted one of the victims to call for help and led to their rescue."

Further inquiries by police revealed the location of the house, and "sensitive negotiations" were conducted by the charity to secure the women's release.

It was "very unlikely" that the alleged victims were related to the suspects because of their nationalities, police said.

Speaking to the BBC, Aneeta Prem, founder of Freedom Charity, said the charity was investigating how the women had remained hidden for so long.

"In a very busy capital city we often don't know our neighbours. We're looking at people who were kept against their will in an ordinary residential street in central London," she said.

She added that the women were extremely brave to pick up the phone and contact the charity. The alleged victims were able to walk out of the house after receiving help.

The charity founder said the two people arrested were considered the "heads of the family".

Ms Prem added: "We started in-depth to talks to them when they could. It had to be pre-arranged. They gave us set times when they were able to speak to us.

"It was planned that they would be able to walk out of the property. The police were on standby."

She said the women now had a chance to rebuild their lives.

A Home Office spokesperson said: "The Home Secretary is shocked by this appalling case and while the police need to get to the bottom of exactly what happened here, the Home Secretary has made clear her determination to tackle the scourge of modern slavery."

Three decades!! WOW.

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