London 'slavery' case: Victim held written notes at window

Aravindan Balakrishnan and his wife Chanda are suspected of holding three women as slaves for 30 years

Related Stories

A former neighbour of three women allegedly held captive in London has told how one of them stood at a window holding notes.

Charlotte Watts, who lived at a property in Shakespeare Road, Brixton, in the 1980s and 1990s said the woman would stand at the window "for hours".

She said: "I do remember her writing these notes... I could never read what they were saying."

The three alleged victims, aged 30, 57 and 69, were rescued last month.

'Desperately sad'

Married couple Aravindan Balakrishnan and his wife Chanda were arrested on Thursday, the BBC understands.

Charlotte Watts Charlotte Watts lived two doors down from the group in south London in the 1980s and 1990s

They were arrested on suspicion of being involved in forced labour and slavery as well as immigration offences, and have been released on bail until January.

Ms Watts said: "Because [the window] was so high up and [the notes] were in biro, I could never read what they were saying, so I feel desperately sad if she was trying to communicate something there."

Ms Watts said she remembered seeing three women from the house regularly at a launderette.

She said: "They were different; they appeared quite vulnerable and they didn't have any social skills whatsoever.

"They used to walk in a line and they never made any eye contact. Everybody used to know about them and talk about them, and we always thought it was a halfway house for abused women."

Ms Watts said eventually the younger of the three women spoke to her and later knocked on her door saying they were going to move house but did not want to.

Ms Watts said she found information for them and took it to the house where a man answered the door.

She said: "He was very polite but there was absolutely no way I was going to be allowed in the house... he just took the letter and quite quickly shut the door on me.

'Total hell'

"Even when [the women] got to the situation where maybe they could knock on a neighbour's door to ask for help, they couldn't express it. They certainly didn't say, 'we're being held prisoner'.

"It was always quite confused and I often didn't quite understand what they were talking about. They were obviously trapped in a total hell."

Ms Watts added that she was never aware of a child living in the property.

The arrested couple have been linked to 13 addresses across London, the Metropolitan Police has confirmed.

Officers said the women from Britain, Ireland and Malaysia had suffered years of "physical and mental abuse" and lived together as a "collective" after two of the women met the man through a "shared political ideology".

Police said the 30-year-old woman, who is believed to have lived her entire life in servitude, had a birth certificate but no other official papers.

The case came to light after the Irish woman rang Freedom Charity to say she had been held against her will.

More on This Story

Related Stories

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

BBC London

Weather

London

Min. Night 13 °C

BBC Local Live

  1.  
    18:00:

    That brings the BBC London live page to an end for today. Josephine McDermott will be back tomorrow from 08:00 with more news, travel, sport and weather from across the capital. Happy Diwali!

     
  2.  
    Fireworks displays 17:55:
    Fireworks

    If you are wondering where to watch fireworks this year, London Fire Brigade has created a map showing free and ticketed events.

     
  3.  
    Cloudy with light drizzle 17:50:

    It will remain generally cloudy overnight with spells of light rain and drizzle. Rain will become heavier and more prolonged at times later. It will feel mild with a brisk southwesterly wind.

    Minimum temperature: 10C (50F).

     
  4.  
    Travel updates 17:45:

    Get the latest situation on London's roads this evening with BBC Travel.

    Travel map
     
  5.  
    Royal officer arrested 17:38:

    News just in, a Royal Protection officer has been arrested following the discovery of ammunition - believed to be from the Metropolitan Police's own supplies - in personal lockers in the grounds of Buckingham Palace, the force said.

     
  6.  
    Harry Roberts police killing 17:35:

    Had Harry Roberts shot the two police officers he was convicted for killing a year earlier, he may well have been hanged but the death penalty was abolished in 1965.

    The funeral of the three officers

    Read more about the case known as Braybrook Street Massacre here.

     
  7.  
    Coming Up 17:25: BBC London News TV

    The town of Hanwell falls silent for the funeral of murdered schoolgirl Alice Gross, a family's fight to keep a critically ill 22-year-old alive sparks a public protest and how police and intelligence chiefs are reviewing the security of Parliament after a soldier was shot dead in the Canadian capital. At 18.30 on BBC One with Riz Lateef.

     
  8.  
    Mobo awards 'shambles' 17:15: Newsbeat

    Singer Sam Smith cleaned up at the Mobo awards but the event is called a "shambles" by viewers.

     
  9.  
    Twickenham collision 17:05:

    Billy Reeves reports King Street is partially blocked at Cross Deep in Twickenham because of a collision. More travel updates here and every 15 minutes on BBC London 94.9.

    Travel map
     
  10.  
    News on the hour 16:56: BBC London 94.9 Radio

    The bulletin this hour includes:

    • The daughter of one of the three police officers killed by Harry Roberts has said she's sickened by a decision to release him.
    • More than a hundred people have held a protest outside Croydon University Hospital accusing staff of "giving up" on a critically ill young man.
     
  11.  
    Happy Diwali 16:45:

    On BBC London News at 18:30 Asad Ahmad reports from the Diwali - or Festival of Light - celebrations in Neasden.

    Here is a picture from Willesden Temple where preparations are underway.

    Diwali preparations
     
  12.  
    Tube doors report 16:37:

    Following the report into the case where a Tube passenger got her scarf caught in Tube doors and was dragged 10 metres, Tube boss Nigel Holness says: "Thankfully incidents of this nature are extremely rare on our network and the Tube is one of the safest railways in the world."

    He said he would "fully consider" the recommendation that station assistants be able to alert train drivers to any problems after the signal to start closing Tube doors has been given.

     
  13.  
    Coming Up 16:27: BBC London 94.9 Radio

    On Drivetime with Eddie Nestor, from 17:00, he's discussing prostate cancer and the importance of men having check-ups.

     
  14.  
    Full review promised 16:18:

    The Crown Prosecution Service says it will conduct a "full review into the handling of disclosure and other issues throughout the trial", in response to the sham marriage trial collapsing.

     
  15.  
    Crystal Palace boss charge 16:09: BBC Sport

    Crystal Palace boss Neil Warnock has been charged with misconduct by the Football Association for saying on Saturday that referee Craig Pawson was "influenced" by Chelsea players during the Blues' 2-1 win at Selhurst Park.

    Neil Warnock
     
  16.  
    News on the hour 16:00: BBC London 94.9 Radio

    The bulletin this hour includes:

    • The Metropolitan Police Commissioner has said he disagrees with the decision to release Harry Roberts, who shot dead three unarmed police officers in west London in the 1960s.
    • The trial of a minister accused of conducting sham marriages in Thornton Heath has collapsed, with the judge ruling immigration officers acted in bad faith.
     
  17.  
    Home Office 'disappointed' 15:49:

    The collapse of the trial is "an extremely disappointing end to a long investigation", a Home Office spokesperson said.

    "Clearly we are treating the judge's ruling that our officers acted in bad faith with the utmost seriousness," they added.

     
  18.  
    'Case tainted' 15:46:

    Judge Madge said in his ruling: "I am satisfied that this is a case in which there has been both bad faith and serious misconduct on the part of the prosecution."

    The Rev Nathan Ntege Rev Nathan Ntege was accused of 494 sham marriages

    He said "bad faith and misconduct" started in June 2011 when two of the principal defendants were arrested and they have "tainted the whole case".

     
  19.  
    Immigration officers 'lied on oath' 15:38:

    His Honour Judge Nic Madge brought the trial to halt a yesterday saying: "I am satisfied that officers at the heart of this prosecution have deliberately concealed important evidence and lied on oath."

    Three immigration officers have been suspended and the Independent Police Complaints Commission has been called in to carry out an investigation.

     
  20.  
    Sham marriage trial collapse 15:30:

    A trial at the Inner London Crown Court centring around allegations that a vicar, and several church officials had presided over a "conveyor belt" of fake weddings, has collapsed, Channel 4 News has reported.

     
  21.  
    Pan-London toll plan 15:22:

    Calls have been made for drivers in the west of the capital to help pay for future crossings in the east, through a pan-London toll, reports Wharf.co.uk.

     
  22.  
    Alvin Stardust remembered 15:09:

    BBC London 94.9's Tony Blackburn has remembered Alvin Stardust, who has died aged 72, as "a great showman".

    Alvin Stardust

    He said he would be "sorely missed" and "performing was his life".

     
  23.  
    News on the hour 14:56:

    Top story on BBC London 94.9 this hour:

    There has been anger about a decision to release Harry Roberts, who shot dead three unarmed police officers in west London in the 1960s. The Police Federation called it "abhorrent" and the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said "life should mean life" in such cases.

     
  24.  
    NFL plan backed 14:44:

    Chancellor George Osborne says the UK government will support plans for a London-based NFL team.

    The idea of Wembley becoming home to a franchise has been mooted since 2007, when 81,176 watched Miami Dolphins take on New York Giants at the venue.

    Detroit Lions play Atlanta Falcons at the stadium on Sunday.

     
  25.  
    'Lee Rigby memorial' 14:32:

    In May, Nick Raynsford, MP for Greenwich and Woolwich said a memorial for murdered soldier Lee Rigby would attract "undesirable interest from extremists".

    Greenwich Council has said a proposed stone memorial has been agreed with Mr Rigby's family, but it will not feature his name.

     
  26.  
    Training exercise 14:18:

    London Fire Brigade tweets: We're carrying out a training exercise at #Sutton Hospital this afternoon so don't be alarmed if you see a lot of fire engines in the area.

     
  27.  
    MP Dog of the Year 14:13:

    Westminster Dog of the Year has taken place today with the dogs of MPs and Peers competing for prizes.

    Michael Gove MP and Snowy

    Michael Gove MP and Snowy were in the "Paw-blic Vote" category, according to The Kennel Club.

    Snowy's achievements were: I can steal things out of the bin, can eat a block of cheese under five seconds and am friends with the guinea pig.

    Snowy came second.

     
  28.  
    News this hour 13:58:

    The bulletin this hour includes:

    • There has been anger about a decision to release Harry Roberts, who shot dead three unarmed police officers in west London in the 1960s.
    • A memorial to the murdered soldier Lee Rigby is to be installed in a chapel opposite Woolwich Barracks.
     
  29.  
    Roberts release debated 13:49:

    In the Commons earlier Labour former minister Ian Austin told William Hague: "People out there are absolutely furious at today's news.

    "The police are saying it's a betrayal, (Home Secretary Theresa May) herself promised the country that life should mean life for anybody convicted of killing a police officer.

    "I want to know what's the Government going to do to ensure this evil criminal is kept behind bars where he belongs."

     
  30.  
    Officers remembered 13:39:

    Scotland Yard officer, John Sutherland, formerly of Hammersmith and Fulham borough which covers Shepherd's Bush where three officers were murdered in 1966 tweets: #OfficersDown, and this picture of the memorial in Braybrook Street.

    Memorial to the officers
     
  31.  
    Tube warning advice 13:29: Josephine McDermott BBC News Online

    The RAIB mocked up the Holborn incident in a depot in Northfields for tests.

    Test

    On the day of the incident the scarf was forcibly removed from the passenger's neck and carried into the tunnel. The report said actions by the member of staff on the platform may have saved her from receiving more injuries. She hurt her neck and back.

     
  32.  
    Tube warning advice 13:22: Josephine McDermott BBC News Online

    Station assistants must be able to alert train drivers to any problems that arise once the signal to start closing Tube doors has been given.

    The moment the scarf was trapped

    That's the recommendation of the Rail Accident Investigation Branch after a woman had her scarf trapped in Tube doors at Holborn and was dragged 10 metres. You can read the full report here.

     
  33.  
    Coming Up 13:12: Sonja Jessup Presenter, BBC London News

    On BBC London News at 13:30, we'll be live outside Croydon University Hospital after more than 100 people took part in a protest over the treatment of a critically ill young man.

    And Hanwell falls silent as respects are paid to Alice Gross.

     
  34.  
    Marble throwing charge 13:07:

    A man who was escorted from the House of Commons after allegedly throwing a bag of marbles during Prime Minister's Questions has been charged.

    MPs and journalists heard a loud bang and shouting at about 12.30 last Thursday, but the proceedings were not disturbed.

     
  35.  
    News on the hour 12:56: BBC London 94.9 Radio

    The bulletin this hour from Emma North includes:

    • There's anger about a decision to release Harry Roberts, who shot dead three unarmed police officers in west London in the 1960s.
    • The family of the murdered west London schoolgirl Alice Gross have described her as so spirited, so present, so vital and so full of promise.
    • A potentially fatal incident in which a woman was dragged 10 metres along a Tube platform after her scarf got caught in the train doors has been described in an accident report.
     
  36.  
    'Lee Rigby memorial' 12:49:

    A memorial for Lee Rigby is to be placed in St George's Chapel opposite Woolwich Barracks, Greenwich Council says.

    Lee Rigby's name on the memorial Lee Rigby's name appears on the Armed Forces Memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum, but will not appear on the Woolwich memorial

    The council says the stone would be inscribed 'To mark Woolwich's history as a Barracks Town and to commemorate all those service men and women who have served or lived in Woolwich and who have given their lives in the service of their country'.

    It confirmed the fusilier's name will not appear on the stone.

     
  37.  
    Concern over library services 12:44:

    A trade union has expressed "great concern" over proposals for the future of Barnet's library service, reports the Barnet Times.

     
  38.  
    Cenotaph tribute 12:36:

    A teenage cadet joined singer Joss Stone this morning at the cenotaph.

    Joss Stone at the Cenotaph

    Kamil Cesarz, 18, from Ealing, west London, said: "Being asked to take part in the watch is especially important to me. To be asked to represent 'the future' of the armed forces makes me extremely proud."

     
  39.  
    Dog rescues owner 12:27:

    A retired mechanic slept through his fire alarm as his home filled with smoke after he fell asleep cooking his lunch - but his dog came to the rescue.

    The Romford Recorder has the full story plus a photo of the hero dog.

     
  40.  
    Public ceremony 12:18:

    A public memorial ceremony for Alice Gross will take place on Sunday, 2 November at Greenford Town Hall, her family has announced.

    They said it would be an occasion to "thank all the local people whose outpouring of support and grief has touched them very deeply".

     
  41.  
    Coffin decorated 12:12:

    Alice's coffin was painted by her sister Nina, grandmother Anne Hodgkiss, and family friend, Carole McCourt, with a meadow scene to capture her love of nature.

    Hearse carrying coffin

    It also depicts her three cats, Lottie, Louis and Pattie and her dog, Peggy, the family said.

     
  42.  
    Poem for Alice 12:03:

    Alice's grandfather read the poem 'Surprised by Joy' by William Wordsworth, written at the loss of his own daughter. Read it and find out more about it here.

    Knowing my heart's best treasure was no more;

    That neither present time nor years unborn

    Could to my sight that heavenly face restore.

     
  43.  
    News on the hour 12:00:

    The radio bulletin includes:

    • A man who served time with Harry Roberts, the armed robber convicted of murdering three policemen in west London in 1966, says he's a "changed man" who deserves to be released.
    • The family of the murdered west London schoolgirl Alice Gross have described her as so spirited, so present, so vital and so full of promise, on the day of her funeral in Twickenham.
     
  44.  
    Musical funeral 11:54:

    Her family said Alice "loved music and loved making music". The funeral, a humanist celebration, included videos of Alice playing and singing songs she wrote herself.

    Alice Gross and her family Alice with her family

    Mourners sang 'You are my Sunshine' and further musical tributes were made by her music teachers, past and present, including 'Home' by Gabrielle Aplin, 'The Call' by Regina Spektor , 'Touch the Sky' from the film 'Brave' and the violin piece 'Ashokan Farewell' by Jay Ungar.

     
  45.  
    Youth Music tribute 11:50:

    A tribute and donation page has been set up in Alice Gross's memory with music foundation Youth Music.

    Her family said: "We feel this is a fitting tribute to our daughter Alice. She loved music and loved making music and would have wanted other children to experience this joy."

     
  46.  
    'Depth of compassion' 11:45:

    "We would like to thank everyone for being so kind and supportive. We have been moved by the depth of sympathy and compassion around us, not only from close family and friends but also from the local community."

    Alice Gross as a child
     
  47.  
    'Impossible to understand' 11:41:

    The statement continues: "We find it almost impossible to understand what has happened and that we have to say goodbye to her. We want Alice's funeral to focus on the joy of Alice's life and the joy of having known her."

     
  48.  
    'Alice full of promise' 11:35:

    "We have been devastated by the appalling circumstances of Alice's death. Alice was so spirited, so present, so vital and so full of promise," Alice Gross's family has said in a statement.

     
  49.  
    Alice Gross funeral 11:33:

    The hearse passed the Clock Tower in Hanwell which was decked out with yellow ribbons during the period Alice Gross was missing.

    Hearse carrying coffin
     
  50.  
    Alice Gross funeral 11:25:

    People turned out earlier to pay their respects to Alice Gross as her funeral cortege passed in west London.

    Crowds in Hanwell
     
  51.  
    More trees for Harrow 11:21:

    More trees will be planted across Harrow and two new apprenticeships have been secured as part of a deal agreed this week, reports the Harrow Times.

     
  52.  
    Drones in 11:11:

    Drones, which could seriously injure or kill, are being flown over cities and towns across England, despite laws designed to protect the public.

    East London drone flight

    Dozens of YouTube clips show the aircraft, which can be bought for £300, over populated areas including London, Liverpool and Nottingham.

     
  53.  
    News on the hour 10:59: BBC London 94.9 Radio

    The bulletin at 11:00 includes:

    • Boris Johnson says Londoners will be "absolutely sickened" by news that an armed robber who was convicted of murdering three police officers in 1966 is to be released.
    • A new centre of excellence in the field of researching brain tumours opens today at Queen Mary University of London.
     
  54.  
    Victoria Line disruption 10:51:

    BBC London Travel tweets: Victoria Line - No service btwn Victoria and Brixton after a signal failure at Brixton - P

     
  55.  
    Duchess's duties continue 10:45:

    The Duchess of Cambridge will attend the Autumn Gala Evening dinner of Action on Addiction later. She will be joined by comedian and impressionist Rory Bremner.

    It will be her second solo outing in three days following a two months of illness.

     
  56.  
    World Cup applications 10:33: Dan Roan BBC sports editor

    The 2015 Rugby World Cup had 650,000 applications for tickets for England v Australia in the pool stage at Twickenham - capacity 82,000.

    Allocation results are due to be announced before the end of the month.

     
  57.  
    Harry Roberts release 10:15: Danny Shaw Home affairs correspondent, BBC News

    tweets: Harry Roberts could be freed in a few days, but it could take up to 3 weeks. It's thought he'd been refused parole at least 8 times.

     
  58.  
    West Ham: Live 10:05: BBC Sport

    Sportsday has live reporting from West Ham's news conference ahead of their clash with Manchester City.

    Sam Allardyce

    Manager Sam Allaryce says: "It looks like being the best side since I've been here."

     
  59.  
    News on the hour 09:56: BBC London 94.9 Radio

    The bulletin at 10:00 includes:

    • The Met Police Federation has described as "scandalous, hurtful and abhorrent" the decision to release a man convicted of murdering three police officers in west London.
    • The centre of Hanwell has fallen silent this morning for murdered 14-year-old Alice Gross's funeral cortege.
     
  60.  
    Police Killer to be Freed 09:46: via Facebook

    Vanessa is asking if life should mean life.

    Roland K Sodeyi writes: Normally I'm a bit liberal about these things e.g. rehabilitation, minimum tariffs blah blah blah ...but this time, 3 life sentences? Killing a law enforcement officer? While committing a robbery? Plus, 3 life sentences!! On this occasion, I'm with the throw away the key brigade.

     
  61.  
    Roberts 'not a bad bone' 09:38:

    Mark, who was in prison with Harry Roberts, phoned Vanessa to say there "isn't a bad bone in his body".

    He said: "It's terrible for the officers losing their life but the man's done 48 years. I don't think on the day they went out to murder people."

    He said the murders happened "in the heat of the moment".

     
  62.  
    Tate director ranked top 09:28: The Guardian

    reports Tate Modern's director Sir Nicholas Serota has topped the art world's power list.

     
  63.  
    Sunrise Poppy vigil 09:16:

    A vigil running from sunrise to sunset will open this year's Poppy Appeal at the Cenotaph.

    Poppies

    A century on from the outbreak of World War One, the British Legion is calling for a focus on the "future of the living" and the "memory of the fallen".

     
  64.  
    Police Killer to be Freed 09:09:

    Serving policeman Jason phoned BBC London 94.9 in response to news Harry Roberts is to be freed. He said: "I was born when this happened. I just think it sends out very bad messages to people. Unfortunately in the UK people tend to get away with murder, literally.

    "To kill a policeman or any anyone in the emergency services or position of responsibility should be treated slightly differently to an ad hoc murder in the street."

    Do you agree?

     
  65.  
    News on the hour 09:00: BBC London 94.9 Radio

    The bulletin this hour includes:

    • The decision to release an armed robber who was jailed for murdering three police officers in west London nearly 50 years ago has been described as a slap in the face for their families.
    • The funeral of Alice Gross will take place in Hanwell this morning, three weeks after her body was discovered in the River Brent.
     
  66.  
    Alice Gross funeral 08:48: Guy Smith BBC London's Home Affairs Correspondent

    The funeral cortege for Alice Gross is due to pass Hanwell Clocktower in 20 minutes.

    Shrine
     
  67.  
    Police Killer to be Freed 08:45:

    The murders of PC Geoffrey Fox, 41; Sgt Christopher Head, 30; and Det Con David Wombwell, 25; became one of the most infamous crimes of the 1960s.

    Geoffrey Fox, David Wombwell and Christopher Head

    Steve White, head of the Police Federation, told The Sun: "This decision by the Parole Board is a slap in the face for the families of the three police officers he brutally murdered."

     
  68.  
    Coming Up 08:35: BBC London 94.9 Radio

    From 09:00, Vanessa Feltz will be talking about the release of police killer Harry Roberts. Should life mean life? Call 020 7224 2000 or text 81333, starting your message 'London'

     
  69.  
    as it happened
    • News, sport, travel, weather from Thurs 23 Oct
    • More updates from 08:00 on Friday
    • Listen to BBC London 94.9
     
  70.  
    Police Killer to be Freed 08:23:

    A notorious police killer is to be released from prison after more than 45 years.

    Harry Roberts

    Harry Roberts, 78, was jailed for life for murdering three unarmed officers in Shepherd's Bush, in 1966.

     
  71.  
    Watch: Today's weather 08:18: via Facebook

    Georgina Burnett has today's weather forecast:

    Georgina Burnett
     
  72.  
    Travel: Train Delays 08:08: BBC London 94.9 Radio

    London Midland and Virgin Trains are experiencing 15 minute delays from Milton Keynes to Watford Junction.

     
  73.  
    Mainly Cloudy 08:03:

    Today will be a mainly cloudy day with light rain or drizzle possible at times, with the best of the sunny spells early on.

    It will be a milder day, although the breeze may make it feel colder. Maximum temperature: 16C (61F).

     
  74.  
    Good morning 08:00: Josephine McDermott BBC News Online

    I'll be bringing you the latest news, sport, travel and weather from across London today for BBC Local Live.

    You can also send your news, pictures and comments to london.locallive@bbc.co.uk or tweet @BBCLondonNews.

     

Features

Elsewhere on the BBC

  • FutureThe future is now

    Get the latest updates and biggest ideas from BBC Future’s World-Changing Ideas Summit

Programmes

  • A virtual girlfriendClick Watch

    Using the latest tech to find friends on a night out and meet a virtual girlfriend

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.