'Invisible handcuffs of fear bound three slaves'
Published 23/11/2013 | 02:00
Three women kept as slaves for more than 30 years were held by "invisible handcuffs" because of the fear instilled in them by their captors, police said yesterday.
Detectives said the victims had been "brainwashed" and had described a "complicated and disturbing picture of emotional control over many years" which might take months to understand fully.
Meanwhile, the head of the charity which secured the women's release said they had been kept in "horrific" conditions and had thanked her for "saving their lives".
A man and a woman, both aged 67 and believed to be Asian, were arrested on Thursday in Lambeth, south London, over the slavery claims and immigration offences. They were later released on bail.
Giving an update on the investigation, Commander Steve Rodhouse, of Scotland Yard's Specialist Crime and Operations section, said: "We are unpicking a story that spans at least 30 years of these women's lives, and all of this requires police activity to turn that into evidence.
"This case is sadly what we probably all understand as forced labour and domestic servitude – slavery in simple terms."
He said the case was "unique", adding: "It is not as brutally obvious as women being physically restrained inside an address and not allowed to leave.
"What (we) are trying to understand is what were the invisible handcuffs that were used to exert such a degree of control over these women."
Aneeta Prem, founder of the Freedom Charity, which secured the women's release, said she met the three women on Thursday. "They're quite traumatised . . . but very relieved to be out.
"When I met them, it was a very humbling experience. They all threw their arms around me, and apart from crying enormously, they thanked the charity for the work Freedom had done in saving their lives."