Police in England arrested a couple who allegedly held three women captive for thirty years, according to an announcement by Scotland Yard on Thursday.
Inspector Kevin Hyland reported that one woman, a 30-year-old Englishwoman, “appears to have been in servitude for her entire life.” Hyland stated that two other women, an Irish woman of 57 years and a Malaysian of 69 years, and the 30-year-old are currently safe and in the care of a charity, where they are receiving treatment for severe trauma. The charity is working with police on the effort.
The couple in custody are both 67-years-old. Police made the arrest at their residence in a south London town named Lambeth and took them into custody pending charges of slavery and domestic servitude. They have not been identified but police confirmed that they are not native to England.
“We’ve seen some cases where people have been held for up to 10 years, but we’ve never seen anything of this magnitude before,” he said.
Police were notified of the women’s enslavement by Freedom Charity in October. The organization reported that they had received a telephone call from a woman who said that “she had been held against her will in a house in London for more than 30 years.” Aneeta Prem, spokeswoman for Freedom Charity, said that the charity had rushed into action to plan the rescue of the woman. The victim had been prompted to phone for help after viewing a documentary on television about forced marriages.
Freedom Charity first alerted the sexual offenses exploitation and child abuse department of the Metropolitan Police, which later passed the case on to its human trafficking department.
The women were freed in October after the charity engaged them in secret negotiations, according to police. Talking to them during prearranged telephone calls, Freedom Charity workers finally were able to earn the trust of the extremely traumatized women and to convince them to leave the house from which they had been allowed outside only sparingly. The Irish woman and the British woman escaped first, meeting with police and members of Freedom Charity on October 25. After detailing the location from which they had escaped, police went to the house and rescued the Malaysian captive.
The delay between the release of the women and the arrest of the couple who held the three women captive for thirty years occurred because although police were still investigating the facts of the case, they wanted the women to be freed as soon as possible.
Police are seeking to discover if any of the women are related. They would not comment on the relationship between the couple arrested or a possible motive.
According to Hyland, his department has seen its share of forced labor and servitude cases, with some in captivity for up to a decade. “But,” he added, “we’ve never seen anything of this magnitude before.”
According to police, there has to date been nothing to indicate that the women were sexually abused, but they advise that it is still early in the investigation. The suspects have been released on bail until January.
As in many cases of world news, the first news of the police arresting the couple on charges of holding three women captive for thirty years was spread via Twitter.
By Jennifer Pfalz