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Suspects in London domestic servitude investigation bailed

Three women were allegedly held against their will in a London home for more than 30 years.

Image: PA/PA Wire/Press Association Images

THE TWO SUSPECTS in the domestic servitude and forced labour case in London have been granted bail.

The 67-year-old man and 67-year-old woman – who are not British nationals – have been released until a date in January, Scotland Yard confirmed.

“This is the very early stages of a complicated and sensitive investigation,” explained the head of the Human Trafficking Unit, Kevin Hyland.

Three people, including a 57-year-old Irish woman, a 69-year-old Malaysian woman and a 30-year-old British woman, were rescued from a south London property last month.

“These women are highly traumatised, having been held in servitude for at least 30 years with no real exposure to the outside world, and, trying to find out exactly what has happened over three decades will understandably take some time.”

The detective inspector said that his unit has dealt with many cases over the years but has “never unearthed such a staggering example of people held against their will for their whole life time”.

“What is important now is that our investigation continues, that we achieve the best possible evidence and aim to bring those responsible to justice. I would stress that this is by no means common place in our society, but if there are others out there suffering a similar plight please take confidence that we will act and we will support you.”

Police do not believe there is a sexual element to the investigation but would not be drawn further on the possible motivation.

According to Met Police, the three women were granted “limited freedom” during their time at the house in Lambeth – which was more than 30 years in all cases.

The rescue came after the Irish woman contacted the Freedom Charity after seeing a BBC documentary about forced marriage. She told the charity that she had been held against her will for more than thirty years.

Founder Aneeta Prem said her charity then took immediate action in planning their safe rescue, including contacting police.

“Facilitating their escape was achieved using utmost sensitivity and secrecy and with the safety of the women as our primary concern.”

The Human Trafficking Unit was brought into the case on 21 October and enquiries began to establish the women’s exact locations.

Negotiations – led by the charity – eventually concluded with the woman agreeing to meet detectives at a location on Friday, 25 October.

The British and Irish women met the charity workers and police on that day. They identified the location where they had been held and police attended the address, rescuing the 69-year-old Malaysian woman. All three were taken to a place of safety that same day, where they remain in the care of professionals.

Hyland explained the discrepancy between the date of the rescue and the date of the arrests arose because officers had to establish the facts and ensure the victims were aware of police intentions.

Scotland Yard would not comment on the relationship between the women but it has been reported that they are not related.

It is believed the youngest victim spent her entire life in domestic servitude.

Gardaí have not yet been asked to assist on the case. The Embassy of Ireland in London will be offering all available consular assistance to the woman if it is confirmed that she is Irish, the Department of Foreign Affairs said last night.

Related: Irish Embassy in London look to establish details behind woman freed from slavery

Read: Irish woman made call that freed her from 30 years of slavery >

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