News Irish News

Sunday 22 April 2018

British police: Family of Irishwoman 'held captive for 30 years' has not been contacted

Woman (57) was one of three rescued from south London house and has been identified

Detective Inspector Kevin Hyland speaks to the press outside New Scotland Yard in London yesterday
Detective Inspector Kevin Hyland speaks to the press outside New Scotland Yard in London yesterday
Detective Inspector Kevin Hyland addresses the media outside New Scotland Yard in London yesterday
A welcome sign is seen in the London Borough of Lambeth, in south London
A police car passes a Lambeth sign on a council building in south London. Three women enslaved for 30 years have been rescued from a house in London including one who has spent her entire life in domestic servitude, police said on Thursday
Aneeta Prem, founder of Freedom Charity, speaks to Associated Press in central London
A welcome sign is seen in the London Borough of Lambeth, in south London

British Police said they are satisfied they know the identity of the Irish woman who walked to freedom after 30 years of enforced servitude but have not yet contacted her family.

The 57-year-old Irish woman and two others walked to freedom on  October 25 from an “unremarkable” house in South London where they were held in what police have described as the worst case of modern day slavery.  Police said yesterday that the three women suffered “30 years of extreme emotional abuse”.

At a press conference in London yesterday, Dectective Inspector Kevin Hyland who is leading the investigation, said the Irish Embassy in London had been contacted about the Irish woman.  Asked if police had disclosed her identity to the Embassy, he replied: “That is something we are discussing and it is of a confidential nature, so that’s ongoing.”

He said police were “satisfied” they knew the identity of the three women. When asked what efforts were made to contact the Irish woman’s family, he said: “We are satisfied that we know who these individuals are and clearly their protection and their support is our priority...So contacting anybody outside is something that we will consider but when the time is right and after we have taken professional advice.”

The story of how the woman walked to freedom after being deprived of their liberty for more than 30 years in the sprawling borough of Lambeth has captivated international audiences.

The Irish woman, a 67-year-old Malaysian woman and a 30-year-old British woman were rescued last month after making secret contact with a London charity, Freedom Charity.  The Irish woman made the initial contact after watching a television documentary which highlighted the charity’s work. The charity kept up contact over weeks, by secret pre-arranged phone calls with the women. Although were allowed outside in controlled circumstances, they were confined to the home. They left the house on October 25

Their extraordinary story was disclosed for the first time on Thursday to a blaze of headlines, when police two people suspected of holding the women captive were arrested.

Police also disclosed fresh details about the two people who were arrested on Thursday holding the women against their will.   Police said both suspects were arrested and investigated by the Metropolitan Police in London during the 1970s but would not disclose what they were arrested for. 

Police also refused to reveal either the gender of the suspects, their nationalities or even if they were married.  They said they lived in an unremarkable house and may have seemed like an ordinary family to outsiders.

The two suspects were arrested again on Thursday morning following a long and sensitive police investigation. They were released on police bail that night. One of their bail conditions was that they did not return to the house in south London where they allegedly held the three women against their will. 

Detective Inspector Kevin Hyland said:  “Last night our search of the adderss in south London took 12 hours. We seized 65 bags of evidence amounting to 2,500 exhibits. This investigation will continue for as long as it necessary and will go where the evidence takes us.”

He said the two suspects were also arrested on suspicion immigration offences, along with suspected assault and false imprisonment.

He suggested that the women had been subjected to long term psychological and emotional abuse but were not victims of sex or human trafficking.

 “While we do not believe they have been subjected to sexual abuse, we know that there has been physical abuse described as beatings. However there is nothing to suggest that the suspects were violent to others outside of their address. “

He said they did not believe the victims were trafficked into the UK, nor do they believe it is linked to any other groups or are they looking for any other victims.

Commander Steve Rodhouse said the case is “different” and “did not compare” to the many other cases of human trafficking and enforced slavery the human trafficking unit has investigated.

 “There are some things we know this investigation is not. We do not believe this case falls into the category of sexual exploitation, what we tradfitionally refer to as or human trafficking,” he said. “It is not as brutally obvious as a woman being restrained inside an address and not being allowed to leave. What Kevin (Hyland) is trying to understand is what were the invisible handcuffs that were used to exert such a degree of control over these women?”

He continued: “All we have uncovered so far is a complicated and disturbing picture of emotional control over many years. “

The entire human trafficking unit - 37 detectives - are working on the investigation. The three women are being interviewed by specially trained officers who are trying to piece together their lives over the past 30 years.

Commander Rodhouse said: “I need to make it clear that this investigation will take some considerable time. There are a number of lines of inquiry to follow up, numerous statements to take.  Effectively we are unpicking a story that spans thirty years of these women’s lives and we need to turn that into evidence.

By Maeve Sheehan in London

Online Editors

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News