Sunday 24 September 2017

Police formally interview 'slavery victims' for the first time

Police stand guard in front of the property in Lambeth where Josephine Herivel (59) is alleged to have been held against her will for 30 years
Police stand guard in front of the property in Lambeth where Josephine Herivel (59) is alleged to have been held against her will for 30 years
Josephine Herivel
Sian Davies
Aishah Mautum

Margaret Davis, Press Association

Three women allegedly held as slaves will be formally interviewed by police for the first time today.

Officers have had indirect contact with the trio, who it is claimed were effectively brainwashed into remaining in a political collective for more than three decades, but have had to wait until trauma experts gave them the go-ahead to take their accounts in person.

Commander Steve Rodhouse said: "We have not yet been able to formally interview the victims in this case so we don't fully understand the nature of the allegations.

"We are moving to a point where we will be able to interview the victims and our plan is actually to do so today.

"The victims are in the care of specialists who have got great experience of dealing with people who have been subject to trauma. We're working to that advice of those experts as to how best to handle those victims, to support them and of course to draw out the evidence we would need to substantiate any prosecution."

He said that there may have been "many and varied offences" against the women, who were allegedly held captive at various addresses in London, but that their ordeal may not be defined as modern day slavery.

"We need to maintain an open mind on what this particular incident is before we jump to those conclusions and labels," Mr Rodhouse said.

But he added: "The crucial issue for us is that, on the basis of the information that we've had indirectly from victims, clearly criminal offences have been committed. What we need to do now is to understand that in much more detail."

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