LONDON – Three women have been freed after spending 30 years held captive in a south London home, including one woman believed to have spent her entire life in domestic slavery, police said Thursday.
London’s Metropolitan Police announced the rescues after two people — a man and a woman, both 67 — were arrested on suspicion of forced labor and domestic servitude. The suspects were released on bail.
The arrests were part of a slavery investigation launched after one of the women contacted a charity last month to say she was being held against her will, along with two others.
The charity went to the police, and the women — a 69-year-old Malaysian, a 57-year-old Irish woman and a 30-year-old Briton — were freed on Oct. 25.
Kevin Hyland, head of the Metropolitan Police’s human trafficking unit, said the women are “highly traumatized,” having had “no real exposure to the outside world” for the past 30 years. “Trying to find out exactly what has happened over three decades will understandably take some time.”
Police initially said they did not believe any of the victims were related, but later said the relationship between the three is part of the investigation.
The police also said there is no evidence to suggest anything of a sexual nature but said the investigation is ongoing.
The revelations raised questions about how the women’s ordeal began and why it endured for so long. The women — whose names have not been released — are now safe and have been working with trauma experts, Hyland said.
They are doing “as well as we can expect them to,” said Anita Prem, founder of the charity that helped facilitate their release. “Thirty years of your life to be taken away is completely horrendous.”
She would not disclose how the women ended up in captivity, saying only that they were “subjected to mental and physical cruelty and slavery.”
Prem said it does not appear that they previously had tried to escape. She said, “They were absolutely terrified and very traumatized about what had happened to them and what would happen to them if they were caught leaving.”