TWO people have been arrested after police rescued three alleged slavery victims, including a 30-year-old who had spent her whole life in servitude.
The 30-year-old British woman was rescued alongside a 57-year-old Irish woman and a 69-year-old Malaysian woman from a house in Lambeth, south London, at 7.30am today.
Investigating officers said they had “never seen anything of this magnitude before” and described the trio as “deeply traumatised”.
It is thought one of the victims rang police “some weeks ago” having seen media reports about forced marriages, which gave them the courage to contact a charity.
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 effected 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 followed a call to police last month, from a charity on behalf of the 30-year-old alleged captive, who said she had been held for more than 30 years.
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 television coverage on forced marriages.
Aneeta Prem, Freedom Charity founder, said the alleged victims are believed to have suffered physical and mental harm, but were able to walk out of the property after repeated but tentative contact with the organisation’s call centre.
She told Sky News: “We started in-depth to talks to them when they could, it had to be pre-arranged. They gave us set times when they were able to speak to us.
“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.”
All three women, who police described as “highly traumatised”, were taken to a place of safety where they remain.
Ms Prem 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.”
The call from one of the alleged captives, which triggered the police investigation, is believed to have been prompted by a feature on television news channels and in the media during the summer, which investigated false marriages in the UK.
Scotland Yard said further inquiries by police revealed the location of the house, and “sensitive negotiations” were conducted by the charity.
Mr Hyland added: “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 have been taken to a south London police station where they remain in custody.
Earlier this year the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) - a joint operation by the 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.