Friday 16 November 2018

Irishwoman raises alarm after being held captive ‘for decades’ in south London home

Detective Inspector Kevin Hyland speaking to press
Detective Inspector Kevin Hyland speaking to press
Scotland Yard
A map of the Lambeth area in London where the three women were found
Aneeta Prem of the Freedom Charity with David Cameron

AN IRISHWOMAN is said to be “doing well” this evening after being rescued from a London home where she was one of three "traumatised" women imprisoned for more than 30 years.

The Irish woman, who is 57, raised the alarm last month after seeing a documentary during the summer on false marriages, and was rescued by police from the house in Lambeth one week later.

A 69-year-old woman from Malaysia was also rescued, as was a 30-year-old British women.

Scotland Yard has said that all three women were held captive for at least 30 years – raising the possibility that the British woman was born in captivity at the house.

Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore said his department will offer the Irish woman all the assistance it can.

 “This isn’t the first time that we have seen, somewhere in the world, an experience of this kind where people have been held hostage. We’re told in this case for 30 years. It’s truly horrific,” he said.

Police have so far stated there is no sign of sexual abuse and the youngest victim "appears to have been in servitude for her entire life."

Two people have been arrested after police rescued the three alleged slavery victims.

Investigating officers said they had "never seen anything of this magnitude before" and described the trio as "deeply traumatised".

A couple, both 67, were arrested at the home this morning as part of the investigation into slavery and domestic servitude, Scotland Yard said.

Det Insp Kevin Hyland said: "All three women were deeply affected and traumatised.

"Their lives were greatly controlled. For much of it, they would have been kept on the premises. The women were recovered some weeks ago but the arrests were made this morning."

It is understood that the Irishwoman - who is 57 - raised the alarm when she made a phone call to a charity last month after she saw a documentary on television.

The call which triggered the police investigation is believed to have been prompted by a documentary on television news channels during the summer, which investigated false marriages in the UK.

It is believed the woman may have been held captive for 30 years.

Police said the Freedom Charity, which aims to advise and support victims of forced marriages or honour-based violence, got in touch after they received a call following a television documentary on forced marriages.

Scotland Yard said further inquiries by police revealed the location of the house and with the help of sensitive negotiations conducted by the charity, the three women - a 69-year-old Malaysian woman, a 57-year-old Irish woman and a 30-year-old British woman - were all rescued.

All three, who police described as "highly traumatised", were taken to a place of safety where they remain.

Detective Inspector Kevin Hyland, from the Met's human trafficking unit, said: "We applaud the actions of Freedom Charity and are working in partnership to support these victims who appear to have been held for over 30 years.

"We have launched an extensive investigation to establish the facts surrounding these very serious allegations.

"A television documentary on forced marriages relating to the work of Freedom Charity was the catalyst that prompted one of the victims to call for help and led to their rescue."

Officers said the two suspects, a 67-year-old man and a 67-year-old woman, have been taken to a south London police station where they remain in custody.

Speaking to Sky News, Aneeta Prem of Freedom Charity confirmed that the Irishwoman made contact with the charity last month.

She said it was necessary to gain the woman's trust before informing the police, and that it was a week before the police rescued them.

It is understood the woman saw Ms Prem speaking on television during a previous interview and decided to get in touch.

She said the women were "absolutely terrified".

"We started in-depth talks with them when they could, it had to be pre-arranged. They gave us set times when they were able to speak to us," she said.

"It was planned that they would be able to walk out of the property. The police were on standby.

"They were able to leave the property, but it was done in such a way... it was a very, very excellent way it happened.

Ms Prem said the two people arrested were considered the "heads of the family", and that the women were "absolutely terrified" of them.

She added: "They felt they were in massive danger.

"I don't believe the neighbours knew anything about it at all. It was just an ordinary house in an ordinary street.

"They were very restricted on everything they could do.

"We absolutely thrilled this has happened."

Asked about what help the women will be given, the charity founder said: "They are going to be afforded all the help and support that can be.

"I'm so grateful they saw the news.

"Now they will try to re-build their lives."

Earlier this year the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) - a joint operation by the British Home Office and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office - revealed it helped in 1,485 cases of possible forced marriage in 2012, involving 60 countries across Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa and North America.

The statistics for last year show that of the 744 cases where the age was known, more than 600 involved people under the age of 26.


***Here is the statement from Detective Inspector Kevin Hyland in full:

“This morning at approximately 7.30pm [sic] we arrested two people in their 60s at an address in Lambeth as part of an investigation into slavery and domestic servitude.

“We were contacted in October by Freedom Charity after they had received a call from women stating they were being held against their will at an address in London for more than 30 years.

“Through further investigation, we were able to identify the house where they were being held.

“With the help of sensitive negotiations conducted by the charity, the three women, a 69-year-old from Malaysia, a 57-year-old from Ireland, and a 30-year-old British woman, were all rescued.

“All three women were highly traumatised and were taken to a place of safety, where they remain. They are in the care of a charity who deal with people who are deeply traumatised.

“These are deeply traumatised people and it is essentially that we work sensitively to establish the facts in this case.

“When we had established the facts, we conducted the arrests this morning.

“We have established that all three women were held in this situation for at least 30 years. They did have some controlled freedom.

“The human trafficking unit of the Metropolitan police deals with many cases of servitude and forced labour. We have seen some cases where people have been held for up to 10 years, but we have never seen anything of this magnitude before.”

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