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Tuesday 16 September 2014

Freed Irish woman has not contacted family yet

Published 23/11/2013 | 02:00

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THE Irish woman who walked free from a suburban house in London where she was held in forced captivity for 30 years thanked police and a support group for "saving our lives".

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The 57-year-old woman – who was one of three women rescued from decades of "emotional abuse" – has had no contact with either her family or the Irish authorities since her release.

It has emerged the two suspects accused of enslaving the three women had been on the radar of the authorities since the 1970s when they were arrested by police.

The pair, understood to be illegal immigrants who are in their 60s, were first arrested by the Metropolitan Police in the UK almost 40 years ago. However, police refused to say what they were arrested for and whether the pair were married.

The story of the trio came to light when the couple suspected of imprisoning them were arrested at their home in Lambeth in south London on Thursday in connection with keeping the women captive.

However, they were bailed to a date in January after several hours of questioning.

British police yesterday confirmed they were satisfied that they had established the Irish woman's identity.

Asked had they been in touch with her family, they said they were still considering contacting "anybody outside" of their group "when the time is right" and "after we have taken professional advice".

A spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed British police had not revealed to their London embassy the woman's identity but they had been assured that the Irish woman was receiving the appropriate care.

Detective Inspector Kevin Hyland, of Scotland Yard's human trafficking unit, said: "That is something we are discussing and it is of a confidential nature."

Gardai have received no information about the Irish citizen, whose identity remains a mystery this weekend. There was speculation this weekend the woman may be from Northern Ireland and that she may have travelled to London as a student.

EXHIBITS

The couple were arrested at 7.30am on Thursday morning following a long and sensitive police investigation. Police searched the house for 12 hours and took away 65 bags of evidence amounting to 2,500 exhibits.

The couple were questioned not only about false imprisonment and assault of the three women but also about immigration offences, according to police, before they were released on bail.

Aneeta Prem, from the Freedom Charity, said the story of how the woman walked to freedom in the sprawling borough of Lambeth was "unprecedented".

She said the Irish woman called the helpline on October 18 after seeing a television documentary that highlighted the charity's work.

"The Irish lady was incredibly distressed and that was the first time she made contact with anybody to ask for help," said Ms Prem. She was "coherent" but very distressed, and told the helpline she was Irish and that she had been held captive for more than 30 years.

She said the Irish woman continued to call the charity at pre-arranged times, as they tried to gain her trust.

"We were very aware that she was very afraid of being caught on the telephone, that someone would find out."

She took things at "the Irish woman's pace".

A week later, on October 25, the three women walked out of the suburban prison in a "highly charged" and "emotional" liberation.

Police officers, Ms Prem, and others from Freedom Charity, were waiting for them.

The three women are now living in a secure unit together. Specialist officers are trying to piece their stories together.

According to Ms Prem, the Irish woman and the Malaysian woman have talked a "great deal" about what went on in the house and also about their past lives before they ended up living in enforced servitude.

However, Ms Prem confirmed that the young British woman spent every one of her 30 years in there and knows nothing else.

Maeve Sheehan,  London

Irish Independent

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