Slavery case one of 'many', claims Baptist Union

Fri 22 Nov 2013
By Sarah McAllister

Two people questioned after three women were allegedly held as slaves in south London, were previously arrested in the 1970s.

The Baptist Union of Great Britain (BUGB) wants society to be more 'vigilant' when it comes to spotting the signs of human trafficking. The call comes after three women were found after being allegedly held as slaves in a South London home for some 30 years. The BUGB works closely with the victims of human trafficking and his urging the public to become more aware of what is happening in their own communities.

It claims there could be many more similar cases which haven't been exposed.  

Police say at least one of the three women allegedly held in the house in Lambeth was beaten while in captivity.

Officers arrested two people after the women, aged between 30 and 69, were rescued from a house in Lambeth, south London.

Detectives say the pair, a man and a woman both aged 67, are also being questioned on immigration charges. They said they were not looking for any more suspects or victims.

Scotland Yard said the two accused were previously arrested in the 1970s, but did not reveal the nature of those arrests. Police, who have bailed the pair until January pending further enquiries, said they expected the investigation to take a "considerable" amount of time.

The three alleged victims are a 69-year-old Malaysian woman, a 57-year-old Irish woman and a 30-year-old Briton - who police say may have been held captive for her entire life. The case came to light after one of the three told a charity she had been held against her will in a house in London for more than 30 years. Police said the two suspects have been in the country for "many years", and said the case "so far is unique to us".

It was described as a "complicated and disturbing picture of emotional control over many years".

Hiliary Wilmer from BUGB is an expert on human trafficking and sexual exploitation. She told Premier's Des Busteed on the News Hour that women who have been victims of slavery and trafficking often feel vulnerable. 

The women were rescued from a house in Lambeth in south London last month after one of them saw Aneeta Prem, founder of the Freedom Charity, being interviewed on Sky News and contacted her charity for help.

Detective Inspector Kevin Hyland said the whole of the human trafficking unit - 37 officers - were working on this investigation. He said that specially trained officers are working with the women to try to understand their lives over the last 30 years or more. Mr Hyland said the women are in the care of a specialist non-governmental organisation.

He said: "Whilst we do not believe that they have been subjected to sexual abuse, we know that there has been physical abuse, described as beatings." Commander, Steve Rodhouse said police are "unpicking a story that spans at least 30 years of these women's lives".

He said that to the outside world they may have appeared to have been a "normal family": "This does mean that over the course of many decades the people at the heart of this investigation, and the victims, would probably have come into contact with public services, including our own.

"That's something we need to examine fully. What I can say with some certainty is that the two suspects in this case were arrested by the Metropolitan Police in the 1970s, some considerable time ago." Mr Rodhouse said police do not believe the case falls into the category of sexual exploitation or what is traditionally referred to as human trafficking.

He added: "It is not as brutally obvious as women being physically restrained inside an address and not being allowed to leave." And he said to label the investigation as domestic servitude or forced labour is "far too simplistic". The Prime Minister has described the case as "utterly appalling".

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