Police arrest two people after finding three “traumatised” women believed to be living as slaves in a south London house for as long as 30 years.
Police said on Thursday that they had responded to information provided to them last month by the organisation Freedom Charity which campaigns against forced marriage.
Police went to an address in Lambeth this morning after a call made to the charity on Friday, by an Irish woman who said she had been held in a house against her will for 30 years.
Further enquiries revealed the location of the house where a 69-year-old Malaysian woman, a 57-year-old Irish woman and a 30-year-old British woman were all being held in what the police believe was “domestic servitude”.
On 25 October, following sensitive negotiations by the charity, the women were all rescued and taken to a place of safety. .
They gave us set times when they were able to speak to us Freedom Charity founder Aneeta Prem
Aneeta Prem, who founded Freedom Charity, said the alleged victims – who are thought to have suffered physical and mental harm – were “absolutely terrified” of the two people who have been arrested.
Ms Prem told Channel 4 News that the women had been held in a “controlled freedom”.
“I think basically that a controlled freedom would mean that there are part freedoms, but a lot of it can be psychological and a lot of it can be physical as well,” she said.
She added that the women would have been allowed out of the house on occasions, but only under escort.
We have never seen anything of this magnitude before Detective Inspector Kevin Hyland, Metropolitan Police human trafficking unit
Speaking to Channel 4 News Ms Prem said that when the women were out of the house they had always been escorted. She also told ITV News that the women had been held “in an ordinary house in an ordinary street” in the capital city.
On Thursday morning two suspects, a 67-year-old man and a 67-year-old woman, were arrested at a house in Lambeth, south London and taken to a police station where they remain in custody. Police sources told Channel 4 News that neither of them were British and they may be “part of a criminal network.”
Channel 4 News has learned that the suspects are not British, which was later confirmed by police. Police also believe they are a part of a criminal network.
Detective Inspector Kevin Hyland, from the Met’s Human Trafficking Unit, said: “these were deeply traumatised people, and it is essential that we work sensitively to establish the facts in this case. When we had established the facts, we conducted the arrests this morning.”
The youngest of the three women had apparently been held for her entire life.
Mr Hyland added: “Our unit deals with many cases every year but has never unearthed such a staggering example of people held against their will for their whole life time.”
“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,” he continued.
“We have launched an extensive investigation to establish the facts surrounding these very serious allegations.”
He added that the “catalyst” that prompted one of the women to call was a television documentary on forced marriages which involved Freedom Charity.