Three “traumatised women” kept as slaves in London have been freed after spending three decades imprisoned against their will, police say.
A 30-year-old British woman, a 57-year-old Irish woman and a 69-year-old Malaysian woman are believed to have walked to their freedom from a property in south London after media coverage on forced marriages gave them the courage to contact a support charity.
A man and a woman, both aged 67, were arrested at the home on Thursday morning as part of the investigation into slavery and domestic servitude, Scotland Yard said.
Freedom Charity, which supports victims of forced marriages or honour-based violence, contacted police after receiving a call from one of the women following television coverage on forced marriages
She told the charity she had been held for 30 years.
Aneeta Prem, Freedom Charity founder, said the alleged victims were believed to have suffered physical and mental harm, but were able to walk out of the property after repeated but tentative contact with the organisation’s call centre.
“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,” Prem told Sky News
“It was planned that they would be able to walk out of the property. The police were on standby.
Prem said the two people arrested were considered the “heads of the family”, and that the women were “absolutely terrified” of them.
“They felt they were in massive danger.”
Prem said she did not believe the neighbours were aware of the situation.
“It was just an ordinary house in an ordinary street,” she said.
“They were very restricted on everything they could do.
“We absolutely thrilled this has happened.”
All three women, who police described as “highly traumatised”, were taken to a place of safety where they remain.
The call from one of the alleged captives, which triggered the police investigation, is believed to have been prompted by a feature on television news channels and in the media during the summer, which investigated false marriages in the UK.
Scotland Yard said further inquiries by police revealed the location of the house, and “sensitive negotiations” were conducted by the charity.
Officers said the two suspects have been taken to a south London police station where they remain in custody.