Three women allegedly held as slaves were yesterday being formally interviewed by police in London for the first time.
It also emerged that one of the three, Josephine Herivel, 57, originally from Belfast, is the daughter of John Herivel, one of the leading codebreakers at Bletchley Park who deciphered the Enigma code during the Second World War.
Officers have had indirect contact with the trio, who it is claimed were effectively brainwashed into remaining in a political collective for more than three decades, but have had to wait until trauma experts gave them the go-ahead to take their accounts in person.
Earlier, Commander Steve Rodhouse said: “We have not yet been able to formally interview the victims in this case so we don’t fully understand the nature of the allegations.”
He said there may have been “many and varied offences” against the women, who were allegedly held captive at various addresses in London, but that their ordeal may not be defined as modern day slavery.
“We need to maintain an open mind on what this particular incident is before we jump to those conclusions and labels.”
But he added: “The crucial issue for us is that, on the basis of the information that we’ve had indirectly from victims, clearly criminal offences have been committed. What we need to do now is to understand that in much more detail.”
Ms Herivel, a 30-year-old Briton, and a 69-year-old Malaysian, left the house in Brixton, London, where they said they were being held last month after being in contact with the Freedom Charity.
Police agreed to wait until last week to arrest the suspected captors, said to be Maoist activists Aravindan Balakrishnan and his wife, Chanda Pattni.
Brought up with her two sisters, Mary and Susan in Belfast, Ms Herivel joined Balakrishnan’s extremist collective in the 1970s after moving to London to study, turning her back on her family.
When her father died in 2011, obituaries only made mention of his two other daughters, who now live in London.
Investigators are currently contacting 50 potential witnesses as part of their inquiry. A total of 47 officers are now working on the inquiry.
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