Three women have been freed after spending 30 years held captive in a south London home, including one woman believed to have spent her entire life in domestic slavery, police said Thursday.
London’s Metropolitan Police announced the rescues after two people — a man and a woman, both 67 — were arrested early Thursday on suspicion of forced labor and domestic servitude. The suspects were later released on bail.
The arrests were part of a slavery investigation launched after one of the women contacted a charity last month to say she was being held against her will along with two others.
The charity went to the police, and the women — a 69-year-old Malaysian, a 57-year-old Irish woman and a 30-year-old Briton — were freed Oct. 25.
Kevin Hyland, head of the Metropolitan Police’s human-trafficking unit, said the women are “highly traumatized,” having had “no real exposure to the outside world” for the past 30 years.
“Trying to find out exactly what has happened over three decades will understandably take some time,” he said.
Police initially said they did not believe any of the victims were related, but later appeared to backtrack, saying the relationship between the three is part of the investigation and they will not speculate on it.
The police also said there is no evidence to suggest anything of a sexual nature, but cautioned that the investigation is still not finished. Police also would not speculate on any motivation, disclose the suspects’ nationalities or say if the suspects were a couple.
The revelations raised numerous questions about how the women’s ordeal began and why it endured for so long. What brought them to London? What freedoms — if any — did they have? What restrictions and conditions were they subject to? Did neighbors ever see them? Did they ever try to escape?