November 24, 2013
Dramatic details of how two “slaves” held for more than 30 years met their captor in a “collective” through a “shared political ideology” were disclosed by police on Saturday.
The two women — a 69-year-old from Malaysia and a 57-year-old from Ireland — became enslaved after the collective ended, the officer leading the inquiry said. The third woman freed by officers last month was a 30-year-old who had a birth certificate but no other official documentation. Apparently she had been enslaved all her life.
The disclosure was among a series of developments that included:
Their captors, a man and a woman both aged 67, were said by police to be an Indian and a Tanzanian who came to Britain in the Sixties;
The five-year-old council maisonette where they lived in south London was identified, raising questions over what the local authority knew about the occupants;
Neighbours described how they had thought the alleged captors were “carers” for the three because they saw one of the alleged slaves being pushed in a wheelchair;
Other neighbours said there were claims on the estate where they lived that the 30-year-old had sent “love letters” to a man who lived in the same block;
Cult experts said their captivity showed how political ideologies could act like religious cults;
Theresa May, Britain’s Home Secretary, warned that slavery was now widespread in places including nail bars. The new twists in the slavery investigation follow the disclosure last Thursday that the three women had been rescued and their 67-year-old alleged captors arrested. More than 30 police officers are now dedicated to what Commander Steve Rodhouse said was a “painstaking” investigation that centres on how they met and what happened between them. “We believe that two of the victims met the male suspect in London through a shared political ideology,” he said. “They lived together at an address that you could effectively call a ‘collective’.
“Somehow that collective came to an end and 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. “However, 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.”
He said the 30-year-old victim, who is believed to have lived with the two suspects and the other two victims all her life, had a birth certificate. “That is all the official documentation we can find,” he said. The woman is said to be intelligent and able to read and write, but had no formal education. The exact relationships between all five have not been disclosed.
The ground floor flat that the five lived in, on Peckford Place, on the Angell Town council estate in Stockwell, south London, was still under police guard last night while a door-to-door investigation was carried out. The block was built only five years ago, so the three women will have lived at other addresses over the 30-year period being examined by detectives. It is owned by Lambeth council. Nobody from the authority was available for comment yesterday. However the occupants had gone to some lengths to maintain their privacy, not registering on the electoral roll and keeping their windows covered by net curtains. However, one neighbour suggested they were “nosy” residents who had spoken often to the police.