Three “traumatised women” kept as slaves have been freed after spending three decades imprisoned against their will in a city home, police said.
1/3 Officers have arrested two people as at their home in south #London as part of an investigation into slavery and domestic servitude.— Metropolitan Police (@metpoliceuk) November 21, 2013
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.
2/3 Police were contacted after information from a woman stating she had been held against her will in a house in #London for over 30 yrs— Metropolitan Police (@metpoliceuk) November 21, 2013
Two people in their 60s have been arrested at the home this morning as part of the investigation into slavery and domestic servitude, Scotland Yard said.
The Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said everything will be done to help the Irish woman and that the Embassy in London is working to find out who the woman is.
It follows a call to police last month, from a charity on behalf of one of the alleged captives, who said she had been held captive for more than 30 years.
Freedom Charity, which aims to advise and support victims of forced marriages or honour-based violence, got in touch after they received a call following television coverage on forced marriages.
Aneeta Prem, Freedom Charity founder, said the alleged victims are 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.
She told Sky News: “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.
“It was planned that they would be able to walk out of the property. The police were on standby.
“They were able to leave the property, but it was done in such a way... it was a very, very excellent way it happened.
Ms Prem said the two people arrested were considered the “heads of the family”, and that the women were “absolutely terrified” of them.
She added: “They felt they were in massive danger.
“I don’t believe the neighbours knew anything about it at all.
“It was just an ordinary house in an ordinary street.
“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.
Ms Prem said: “They are going to be afforded all the help and support that can be.
“I’m so grateful they saw the news.
“Now they will try to re-build their lives.”
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.
Detective Inspector Kevin Hyland, from the Met’s human trafficking unit, said: “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.
“We have launched an extensive investigation to establish the facts surrounding these very serious allegations.
“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 and led to their rescue.”
Officers said the two suspects – a 67-year-old man and a 67-year-old woman - have been taken to a south London police station where they remain in custody.
Earlier this year the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) – a joint operation by the Home Office and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office – revealed it helped in 1,485 cases of possible forced marriage in 2012, involving 60 countries across Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa and North America.
The statistics for last year show that of the 744 cases where the age was known, more than 600 involved people under the age of 26.
Update at 16.30pm
Police said the house is in the Lambeth area of south London.