'Slave' women rescued: Suspects were arrested in 1970s

Det Insp Kevin Hyland: "It's clear that there was a degree of freedom"

Related Stories

Detectives investigating the case of three women allegedly held as slaves for 30 years in south London have uncovered a "complicated and disturbing picture of emotional control".

The women, aged 69, 57 and 30, were rescued in Lambeth last month.

Commander Steve Rodhouse told a press briefing that the three women told police they had been beaten.

It has also emerged the couple suspected of keeping them as slaves were arrested in the 1970s.

Police would not reveal the reason why the married couple were arrested. The man is aged 73 while the woman is 63 years old.

'Invisible handcuffs'

News of the women's plight did not emerge until Thursday, when police revealed the women, a 69-year-old Malaysian, a 57-year-old Irish national and a 30-year-old Briton, had managed to leave a house in Lambeth on 25 October.

They are not believed to be victims of trafficking.

Mr Rodhouse described the three women as having been restrained by "invisible handcuffs" and confirmed they have made a clear allegation of slavery against the two suspects, who have also been arrested on suspicion of immigration offences.

Aneeta Prem, Freedom Charity: "We've ensured they're in a place of safety"

He said: "It is not as brutally obvious as women being physically restrained inside an address and not allowed to leave.

'Brainwashing'

"What we have uncovered so far is a complicated and disturbing picture of emotional control over many years, brainwashing would be the most simplest term, yet that belittles the years of emotional abuse these victims have had to endure.

"We are unpicking a story that spans at least 30 years of these women's lives, and all of this requires police activity to turn that into evidence."

He added the women had given a "disturbing picture" of their experience, although the household may have appeared as a "normal family" to others.

It is also being investigated as to whether the women had previous contact with public services.

The case has been described as "unique" by the force and its entire 37-person specialist team is working on it.

House search

Mr Rodhouse said one of the reasons the police had not revealed more information about the couple's arrest in the 1970s was because it must "take great care not to provide information that could lead to the identification of the subjects".

He said the two suspects had been bailed as the investigation would be a long one and could take up to many months, but said they had not returned to the Lambeth property.

The house has been subjected to a 12-hour search, with 55 bags of about 2,500 exhibits seized.

Home Office minister James Brokenshire: "I want to see slavery consigned to history books"

The rescue was staged after the 57-year-old woman secretly gained access to a phone and contacted Freedom Charity.

She first called on 18 October and there followed a number of conversations over a week, before the women left the property when the occupants of the house were not around.

They were met by police and representatives of the charity and moved to a safe location.

It is not yet known if the women are related but police believe the 30-year-old has spent her whole life in captivity. Officers are trying to establish whether she was born in the property.

Leader of Lambeth Council Lib Peck said people were "horrified and shocked".

Dame Tessa Jowell, MP for Dulwich and West Norwood, said: "It is shocking, and for one of the women this is a life foregone until she's in her early adulthood.

Bizarre behaviour

"It happened in my constituency and I think that until we begin to have more information from the community, it will be very hard to draw a precise conclusion as to how bizarre the behaviour of this household was.

"Once we've got those established as facts then we can draw conclusions about why this was allowed to happen, how it happened, did these people slip through the net, were there moments when the bizarre and brutal nature of this household could have been revealed?

"I think we have to accept that we have to be patient."

The Ministry of Justice said the women would be provided with secure accommodation for the first 45 days following their release.

The Salvation Army would be involved in helping the women with the next stages of their recovery period and re-integration into society.

Jakki Moxham, chief executive, of Housing for Women, a charity which works with victims of domestic slavery and trafficking, said the "horrific" case showed "slavery is not confined to the history books".

"Women who have been victims of slavery and trafficking are in an extremely vulnerable position but fail to get long term support and safe and secure accommodation after the government 45-day recovery period.

"We urge the government to address this lack of support in the Modern Day Slavery Bill so these women can try to rebuild their lives."

Mayor of London, Boris Johnson said: "If it's as bad as it would appear to be, it's deplorable that something like this can happen in the 21st Century let alone in London, the greatest city on earth."

Map of Lambeth in south London

Do you live in Lambeth or specifically in the street where the women lived? You can send us your reaction and experiences using the form below.

If you are happy to be contacted by a BBC journalist please leave a telephone number that we can contact you on. In some cases a selection of your comments will be published, displaying your name as you provide it and location, unless you state otherwise. Your contact details will never be published. When sending us pictures, video or eyewitness accounts at no time should you endanger yourself or others, take any unnecessary risks or infringe any laws. Please ensure you have read the terms and conditions.

Terms and conditions

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

BBC London

Weather

London

25 °C 15 °C

BBC Local Live

  1.  
    Bullying damages awarded 10:55:

    A woman who was bullied and harassed by immigration officers has been awarded £125,000 damages against the government.

    The judge called Radha Patel "wholly blameless" after a family visit to Harrow, north-west London, turned into "a nightmare of unimagined proportions" when she was unlawfully detained.

    She claimed damages for deliberate and malicious ill-treatment when she was interrogated, for the concoction of admissions she was alleged to have made and for her treatment following her detention.

     
  2.  
    Hendon murder appeal 10:45:

    Police are trying to find a man who they want to speak to in connection with the murder of a Lithuanian builder in Hendon earlier this month.

    Four men were charged after Zydrunas Laurinavicius was stabbed by robbers in broad daylight.

     
  3.  
    Millwall wedding for fan 10:37:

    Billy Wiltshire, a lifelong supporter of Millwall FC, became the first groom to to tie the knot at the club's New Den ground, Southwark News reports.

    Millwall FC's New Den stadium

    Mr Wiltshire married Sammy-Jo, who the paper says may have had more wedding-day reservations than most brides: she is an Arsenal fan.

     
  4.  
    A40 reopens 10:28: Paul Murphy-Kasp Journalist, BBC London

    The A40 has just fully re-opened coming into town after it was closed earlier due to an accident.

     
  5.  
    Man dies in fall 10:25:

    A naked man, who fell to his death from a luxury penthouse flat, was left lying on the pavement yards from a busy shopping street for almost four hours covered only by a thin red blanket, reports the Evening Standard.

     
  6.  
    Airport expansion 10:15:

    An independent economic group has called for the future expansion of London airports to take Scotland and other UK regions into consideration.

     
  7.  
    Have your say 10:08:

    What do you think of BBC Local Live? We'd like your feedback about this service.

     
  8.  
    News on the hour 09:59:

    On BBC London 94.9 at 10.00:

    • Town hall flag: Tower Hamlets mayor stands by support for Palestine
     
  9.  
    WWI stamps on show at Battersea 09:46:

    A new range of stamps commemorating the First World War are going on display in Battersea Library, reports the Wandsworth Guardian.

    Royal Mail World War I stamp

    The exhibition will run throughout August and will feature enlarged version of stamps due to be issued over the next five years with designs including poppies, famous poetry and a child soldier.

     
  10.  
    Death charge shocks gun police 09:35:

    Mr Chesterman said: "Officers are not above the law and they are accountable for their individual decisions, but carrying a gun on behalf of the state is a big ask and it just got bigger."

    Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders' decision to charge the former marksman comes after a three-month public inquiry into Azelle Rodney's death, chaired by former judge Sir Christopher Holland, found that his killing was not justified.

     
  11.  
    Death charge shocks police 09:26:

    Firearms officers are having second thoughts about their role following a landmark decision to prosecute a former policeman for the shooting of a robbery suspect in north London, a police chief has said.

    The ex-officer, identified only as E7, shot Azelle Rodney in 2005, opening fire within a second of pulling up next to the car the victim was in.

    Deputy Chief Constable Simon Chesterman, the Association of Chief Police Officers' national lead for armed policing, told the Times: "Firearms officers volunteer for the role and many are now considering their future career choices."

     
  12.  
    Footballer assault charge 09:13:

    West Ham footballer Ravel Morrison has been charged with assaulting two women in Salford, police said.

    West Ham footballer Ravel Morrison

    Morrison, 21, of Urmston, is accused of assaulting a 19-year-old woman and a woman aged 39.

     
  13.  
    Russian spy inquest 09:08:

    A public inquiry into the death of a Russian spy who was poisoned as he drank tea at a hotel in Mayfair will be formally opened later.

    Alexander Litvinenko's widow believes he was working for MI6 at the time, and was killed on the orders of the Kremlin.

     
  14.  
    News on the hour 09:00:
  15.  
    Registration D-Day for dot London 08:55:

    It's the final day for Londoners to register for a Dot London web address.

    .London launch

    London-based people and organisations have been given priority to secure the city-specific address over the past three months, with London Zoo, the Royal College of Art, and Cath Kidston signing up.

     
  16.  
    Flying the flag 08:46: BBC London 94.9 Radio

    On Vanessa Feltz's show after 09.00, why is Tower Hamlets council flying the Palestinian flag over its town hall? What are your views?

    And, drink crime offenders will have to wear tags to monitor whether they are still drinking - will it work? Is it going too far?

    Call 020 7224 2000 or text 81333, starting your message with 'London'.

     
  17.  
    Duke's former aide charged 08:35:

    A former aide to the Duke of Edinburgh has been accused of sexually assaulting a girl in the 1970s.

    Benjamin Herman, 79, is charged with three indecent assaults between 1972 and 1974, during which time he served as an equerry to Prince Philip. Mr Herman is due appear before Wimbledon Magistrates' Court on Monday.

     
  18.  
    Ankle tags for booze crimes 08:28:

    Offenders convicted of alcohol-related crimes will have to wear ankle tags to monitor whether they are still drinking, under a new 12-month pilot scheme in Croydon, Lambeth, Southwark and Sutton.

    Up to 150 people are expected to be issued with the tags during the trial which work by recording the levels of alcohol in their sweat.

     
  19.  
    Top headlines
     
  20.  
    Travel 08:19: Paul Murphy-Kasp Journalist, BBC London

    The A3 northbound at Kingston Vale has one lane blocked before the lights at Robin Hood due to a broken down car and in Blackheath, the A2 at Shooters Hill Road, is slow Westbound from Stratheden Road towards Lewisham Road.

    London Underground
     
  21.  
    Travel 08:13: Paul Murphy-Kasp Journalist, BBC London

    The A40 Westway is completely closed between the Northern Roundabout at White City and the A501 Marylebone Road following a collision overnight which is causing queues on the West Cross Route, Holland Park Avenue, and Wood Lane as drivers divert.

    However, traffic can still get onto the Westbound A40 from the Paddington slip.

     
  22.  
    Weather 08:05: Wendy Hurrell BBC Weather, London

    It's a beautiful start to the day across London with temperatures rising nicely.

    It will be another warm afternoon although, the skies will be more cloudy later in the afternoon and this evening one or two places may see a shower. Highs of 25C (77F).

     
  23.  
    08:00: Matthew Bell BBC News, London

    Good morning. I'll be bringing you the latest news, sport, travel and weather for London throughout the day.

    Get in touch with your comments and photos by emailing london.locallive@bbc.co.uk.

     

Features

Elsewhere on the BBC

  • ClockMore for less?

    Could spending less time in the office make you perform more efficiently?

Programmes

  • A factory in JapanThe Travel Show Watch

    Factory infatuation – why Japan’s industrial compounds are drawing large crowds at night

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.