Women 'held as slaves for 30 years'

Det Insp Kevin Hyland: "We have never seen anything of this magnitude before"

Related Stories

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

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.

A man, 73, and woman, 67, were held in Lambeth and bailed until January.

Delayed arrest

The women, who are said to be "highly traumatised", were found following delicate phone conversations between the charity and the 57-year-old, who had secretly gained access to a phone.

There followed a number of phone conversations over a week, and the three woman eventually left the property when the owners of the house were not around, the charity said.

They were met by police and representatives from the group, and were then moved to a safe location.

The 30-year-old had spent her whole life in captivity. Officers are trying to establish whether she was born in the house.

Analysis

The first reaction is shock: if true, how could three women have been held as slaves for 30 years in an ordinary house, in a busy neighbourhood, in a great capital city?

The questions will keep on coming. Did the neighbours suspect anything? Why didn't the women try to escape before? Did police, health workers or social services ever have cause to be concerned?

It's hard to believe that there was no such outside contact - especially given the police's belief that the 30 year old spent her childhood there.

The issue of domestic servitude has risen up the political agenda in recent months - this case is certain to ensure that it stays there.

Police said the relationship between the women was being investigated.

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.

Mr Hyland said: "The women were released as soon as possible.

"There was a delay in the arrest. This was down to the fact that we had to work very carefully with these people who were highly traumatised and it was very difficult to establish the facts.

"The last thing we wanted to do was increase that trauma."

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.

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

"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," Mr Hyland said.

'Ordinary' street

The phone call to the charity was made by the Irish woman on 18 October who said two others were being held with her.

The charity contacted the police the same day and the information was passed on to the Met Police's Human Trafficking Unit on 21 October.

Freedom Charity

  • Launched in December 2010 to help children suffering from forced marriage or "honour" violence or at risk
  • Founded by London magistrate Aneeta Prem, who wrote a children's book about forced marriage which is recommended by the government
  • Designed an app with the Metropolitan Police to help young people at risk of forced marriage
  • Also works with the Home Office and Foreign and Commonwealth Office
  • Has called on the government to keep records of children who do not return to school after summer holidays in order to monitor forced marriages

Further inquiries revealed the location of the house, and after "sensitive negotiations" by the charity the women agreed to meet with police at a location on 25 October.

The Irish woman and the British woman met the police and charity workers and showed the officers where they were being held.

The 69-year-old Malaysian woman was rescued from the house and the trio were taken to a safe place.

Police said the two people arrested were not British nationals and it was "very unlikely" that the alleged victims were related to the suspects because of their nationalities.

Speaking to the BBC, Aneeta Prem, founder of Freedom Charity, said it 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.

'Incredibly brave'

Ms Prem said of the initial contact with the Irish woman: "She said she had been held against her will.

"She was able to use a phone but that was done in a very secret way, the people in the house didn't know she had it.

"It was a process of just over a week where there was lots of phone calls and they gained the trust of the charity, and by doing that they felt confident to reveal enough information, and obviously the police were involved, and they managed to walk out of the house when nobody was around.

"We were waiting for them with the police and we managed to get them to a place of safety.

"They have absolutely nothing now and as a charity we're trying to support them.

"It was a very emotional time, when we got the message they were outside the front door the whole call centre erupted in cheers and there were tears, and everyone was incredibly emotional to know we had helped to rescue three ladies who had been held in such horrific conditions."

Map showing Lambeth Town Hall

Ms Prem said the two people arrested were considered the "heads of the family".

A Home Office spokesman 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."

MP Frank Field, chairman of the modern slavery bill evidence review and vice-chairman of the human trafficking foundation, said: "It was incredibly brave for one of the victims to call for help - much more needs to be done to help victims come forward."

More on This Story

Related Stories

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

BBC London

Weather

London

22 °C 13 °C

BBC Local Live

  1.  
    Man admits attack on Galloway 12:10:

    A man has admitted beating George Galloway, the Respect MP for Bradford West, last month but denied the attack was religiously aggravated.

    Neil Masterson, 39, of Kensington, west London, also admitted assaulting another man, Mostafa Maroof on the same day as the MP. He was remanded to stand trial on 10 November by Isleworth Crown Court.

    George Galloway This picture, released by Respect via Twitter, was taken before George Galloway went to hospital

    The MP was attacked on 29 August while posing for pictures in Golborne Road in Notting Hill.

     
  2.  
    Robert Elms show 12:00: BBC London 94.9 Radio

    In a few minutes author Will Self talks to Robert Elms about his new book Shark, which is based on what is believed to be the largest recorded shark attack in which 200 people were killed when a ship delivering fissile material for the Hiroshima bomb sank.

    And singer Loretta Heywood will play for us this afternoon from her latest album The Boy Across the Road.

     
  3.  
    News on the hour 11:55:

    Our top local news story on BBC London 94.9 in the midday bulletin:

    A man from Kensington has admitted assaulting the Respect MP George Galloway - but denied that the attack was religiously aggravated.

     
  4.  
    LU resignation 11:45: Tom Edwards Transport correspondent, London

    tweets: Reports Phil Hufton has left London Underground. He's the man trying to drive through ticket office closures. No official confirmation.

     
  5.  
    Flats plan to generate £3.5bn 11:36:

    Transport for London said it hoped the "radical new plans" for the Tube HQ would generate up to £3.5bn which would be reinvested in the transport network.

    TfL headquarters

    The building was designed by Charles Holden between 1927 and 1929 for the forerunner of London Underground.

    It was considerably damaged by bombing raids during World War Two.

     
  6.  
    Homes at Tube HQ? 11:29:

    London Underground's historic, Grade I listed headquarters in Westminster could be turned into affordable and privates homes.

    The building at 55 Broadway was built for the Underground Electric Railways Company of London, and is currently used as office space.

    The plans, including 22% affordable homes, will be displayed from tomorrow until Friday at St James's Park station and submitted next month.

     
  7.  
    Teen arrested over puppy dunking 11:19:

    A 16-year-old has been arrested after a boy was filmed dunking a puppy into a bucket of water as part of a charity ice bucket challenge, This Is Local London reports.

    The teenager, who cannot be named, was arrested on 3 September from an address in Edmonton, north London, on suspicion of causing unnecessary suffering to an animal.

     
  8.  
    DIY care warning 11:09:

    London Fire Brigade has warned home improvers to take more care of fire safety when embarking on DIY.

    Fire engine

    It said three people had died and 36 had been injured in the last three years in London fires where fire doors have been replaced, left open or incorrectly fitted.

     
  9.  
    News on the hour 10:57:

    Top local news on BBC London 94.9:

    • Police are investigating a stabbing in Mitcham which has left a man in his 20s in a critical condition.
    • Govia has taken over the UK's largest rail franchise this morning - comprising the Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern, but passengers say they are still experiencing the same old delays.
     
  10.  
    Feedback 10:51:

    We've introduced BBC Local Live to bring you the latest news, sport, travel and weather all in one place. Tell us what you think.

     
  11.  
    VIDEO: London - a retirement nirvana? 10:38:

    BBC Inside Out's Joanne Good discovers why many pensioners are choosing London as the best place to retire.

    Pensioners

    A survey by Britain Thinks reveals many pensioners are choosing London because of its excellent public transport, vibrant cultural scene and excellent access to health care.

    Inside Out spoke to two pensioners who believe that London is "retirement nirvana". Watch the full report on BBC One tonight at 19:30.

     
  12.  
    Unions to protest 10:24:

    Rail unions RMT and Aslef are planning to hold a protest at Blackfriars station later on the awarding of the mega franchise to Govia.

    RMT acting general secretary Mick Cash said: "Monday's protest marks the beginning of a rolling campaign opposing the new franchise's proposals for driver-only operation and the sacking and reducing of the role of train guards and conductors, station de-staffing and the closure of ticket offices."

     
  13.  
    'No underestimating the challenge' 10:15:

    The mega franchise, a joint venture between transport company Go-Ahead and French company Keolis, will have 6,500 staff and generate annual passenger revenues of around £1.3bn.

    It has promised to invest £430m over seven years, including new trains, more services and better connections. Govia Thameslink Railway chief executive Charles Horton said: "There's no underestimating the challenge of the task ahead.

     
  14.  
    New mega franchise 10:10:

    Govia has begun running services on the UK's biggest franchise, comprising the Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern (TSGN), which clock up 273 million passenger journeys a year.

    Mock-up of new Thameslink train The new franchise will see 273 million passenger journeys a year

    The company is operating Thameslink and Great Northern services, including the routes run by First Capital Connect. Some stations and services run by the Southeastern will be incorporated in December, with Southern and Gatwick Express routes joining in July 2015.

     
  15.  
    News on the hour 09:59:

    BBC London 94.9's top local story this hour:

    London Mayor Boris Johnson tells the BBC he thinks sending British ground troops to take on Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria is "off the table for the foreseeable".

    The Conservative MP for Beckenham Colonel Bob Stewart, a former UN commander, told BBC London 94.9 the Islamic world, not the UK, should take the lead in any military action.

     
  16.  
    Victoria line delays 09:48: Andy Dangerfield BBC News Online

    The entrance to the Highbury and Islington station in north London was shut for a time this morning due to severe overcrowding after a signal failure at Brixton led to Victoria line services being disrupted.

    Highbury and Islington station
     
  17.  
    Terry 'never apologised' 09:37:

    Rio Ferdinand says John Terry has never personally apologised to him or his brother Anton over the racist abuse row in a Premier League game in 2011 between Chelsea and QPR.

    Quoted in the Sun, Rio Ferdinand said he no longer talks to Terry. Terry was acquitted of charges of racial abuse following a trial in July 2012, but was later banned for four matches and fined £220,000 by the FA.

     
  18.  
    Franchise change 09:30: Tom Edwards Transport correspondent, London

    tweets: Franchise change as Govia takes over Thameslink Southern Great Northern mega franchise - tech yet to catch up.

    Station board app
     
  19.  
    Mitcham stabbing 09:18:

    A man in his 20s is in a critical condition in hospital after being stabbed in Mitcham, south London, in the early hours.

    Police were called to Cedars Avenue at about 02:15 this morning where they found the victim. No arrests have been made over the stabbing.

     
  20.  
    New cardiac unit 09:12:

    A new state-of-the-art cardiac unit, with three MRI scanners, opens to outpatients at Barts Hospital later today.

    From next spring, it will start taking inpatients and will be one of the biggest heart centres in Europe serving patients from across north and east London, Hertfordshire and Essex.

     
  21.  
    Brewer fails Heineken take-over 09:02:

    Dutch brewing giant Heineken has rejected a takeover offer from London brewer SABMiller saying the proposal is "non-actionable".

    Heineken beer

    The Heineken family, the founding family which still owns half of the firm, said it wanted to preserve the firm as "an independent company" and was confident it would continue to grow.

     
  22.  
    News on the hour 08:55:

    Our top London news story BBC London 94.9 this hour:

    A man in his 20s is in a critical condition in hospital after he was stabbed in Cedars Avenue in Mitcham overnight. No-one has been arrested.

     
  23.  
    Tube delays 08:42:

    There is no service on the Central line between White City to Ealing Broadway and West Ruislip due to a signal failure at North Acton. There are severe delays on the rest of the line.

    On the Victoria line, there are severe delays because of a signal failure at Brixton. And there are delays of up to 20 minutes between Norwood Junction and London Bridge until at least 10:00.

     
  24.  
    Top headlines
     
  25.  
    Tackling Islamic State militants 08:38: BBC London 94.9 Radio

    On Vanessa Feltz show from 09:00: the Foreign Secretary's joining counterparts from around the world to discuss how best to tackle Islamic State militants.

    Boris Johnson's used his column in the Daily Telegraph this morning to say Britain can't simply sit back and do nothing.

     
  26.  
    Police crime scene warning 08:33:

    Merton Police tweets: Police incident in Cedars Avenue, Mitcham this morning. Large crime scene. Please avoid the area as road is currently closed at both ends

     
  27.  
    Invictus Games conclude 08:23:

    The Queen has told competitors in the inaugural Invictus Games she was "deeply moved by your courage, determination and talent".

    Road cycling at the Games

    Wounded servicemen and women from 13 countries took part in the inaugural games at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford, east London.

     
  28.  
    M25 delays 08:16: Louise Pepper Journalist, BBC London

    On the M25 two lanes are closed clockwise between Clacket Lane services and J6 Godstone following a collision which is causing delays of about 90 minutes.

    And the M1 is closed northbound between J11 Dunstable and J12 Flitwick due to an overturned car.

     
  29.  
    Mist and drizzle 08:05: Kate Kinsella BBC Weather, London

    A rather dull start with some mist and drizzle but it will improve. The cloud will break and we'll see some sunny spells. Potentially one or two showers this afternoon. Reasonably warm with a maximum of 22C (72F).

     
  30.  
    08:00: Debabani Majumdar BBC London News

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

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

     

Features

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.