Women held as slaves had 'a shared ideology' with captors police say
WOMEN allegedly held as slaves for 30 years in south London originally met their captors in a “collective” after meeting them through a “shared political ideology”, police have disclosed.
Commander Steve Rodhouse, of Scotland Yard, also revealed the couple accused of holding the three women against their will were of Indian and Tanzanian origin, and came to live in Britain in the 1960s.
The address where the women lived with their alleged captors has been revealed as a tidy three-storey council block in Peckford Place, Stockwell, south London.
It emerged earlier this week that the three victims - a 69 year-old Malaysian, a 57 year-old Irish woman and a British woman aged 30 - were rescued from the property last month and had been subjected to what police described as “emotional control” for decades.
Neighbours expressed their shock and surprise at the drama which had unfolded in recent days at the flat on the Angel Town estate.
One man said he had seen a woman in her 30s, who appeared to be of Indian origin, entering the house on two occasions in recent months.
"She looked completely normal. She was wearing a headscarf and just went into the flat on the times I saw her," said Jose Pereira, 54, a cook.
Sara Habtemichael, 41, a mother-of-three, said: "It's so very sad what seems to have happened there.
"Can you imagine what was going on? I've lived here for five years and never really noticed the people who lived at that address.
"When I first heard about it on th news I coudl never have imagined it would be opposite where I live. it's just awful."
Peter Nosike, 37, said: "It seems almost impossible that something like this could happen here. It's just shocking.
"I know most of the people who live on this block but I've never noticed the people who lived there, which is strange because it's quite open on the estate and we all overlook each other."
Mr Rodhouse said officers were beginning house-to-house inquiries nearby in a bid to learn more about the extraordinary incident.
Mr Rodhouse said: “The suspects are of Indian and Tanzanian origin that came to the UK in the 1960s.
“We believe that two of the victims met the male suspect in London through a shared political ideology, and that they lived together at an address that you could effectively call a ‘collective’.
“Somehow that collective came to an end and how the women ended up continuing to live with the suspects.
“How this resulted in the women living in this way for over 30 years is what are seeking to establish, but we believe emotional and physical abuse has been a feature of all the victims’ lives.
“The people involved, the nature of that collective and how it operated is all subject to our investigation and we are slowly and painstakingly piecing together more information. I will not give any further information about it.”
Mr Rodhouse revealed the younger of the three victims had a birth certificate but added: “That is all the official documentation we can find.”
Officers believe the 30 year-old woman has lived with the suspects and the other victims all her life.
The rescue was staged after the 57 year-old woman secretly gained access to a telephone and contacted Freedom Charity, which works with victims of enforced labour.
She first contacted them on 18 October and following negotiations over a week, the three women left the property on October 25 when the occupants of the house were out.
They were moved to a safe location where they have been receiving specialist help. It is not yet known if they are related.
On Thursday the alleged captors were arrested and questioned but have since been released on bail until January.
Mr Rodhouse said no-one had reported the three victims missing to police between they day they left the house and the day of the arrests.
He added: “I understand the huge public interest in this case, the desire for information and the shock that it has caused.
“However, we must take every step to protect the identities of the victims who are understandably emotionally fragile and highly vulnerable.
“For that reason will not provide any information that will lead to the identification of the suspects or these women that require our every effort to protect them.”
Earlier, police said the women had been "brainwashed" because of the fear instilled in them by their captors, and were held by "invisible handcuffs".
Aneeta Prem, founder of the Freedom Charity, said: “We have seen an extraordinary rise in calls to our helpline since the rescue of the three women came into the public domain.
“We received five times as many calls in 24 hours as we normally do in one week and are needing to increase our resources to cope with this extra demand.
“These women have had traumatic and disturbing experiences, which they have revealed to us.
“What needs to happen now is that the three victims, who have begun a long process of recovery, are able to go through their rehabilitation undisturbed, without being identified.”