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London "Slave" Women Held With 'Invisible Handcuffs' - Police

posted 22 Nov 2013, 08:27 by Mpelembe   [ updated 22 Nov 2013, 08:28 ]

Three women enslaved for 30 years in south London may have been psychologically held captive by 'invisible handcuffs', police say.

LONDON, ENGLAND,UK (NOVEMBER 22, 2013) (ITN) -  Three women enslaved for 30 years have been rescued from a house inLondon including one who has spent her entire life in domestic servitude, police said on Thursday (November 22).

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Officers, who arrested a man and a woman, both 67, at their south London home, described it as the worst case of servitude to have emerged in the British capital.

Police said they did not believe the women - a 69-year-old Malaysian, a 57-year-old from Ireland and the 30-year-old Briton - were related and there was no evidence of sexual abuse. It was not clear where the youngest of the three was born.

The women appeared to have had limited freedom over the years but it was not until one victim summoned the courage to call a charity after watching a documentary on forced marriage that their plight came to light.

They were rescued several weeks ago but the case kept secret until Thursday's arrests.

"It's clear from what we know at the current time that there was a degree of freedom. And very often in these cases people may be allowed to leave the premises; but it's the psychological control, where there may be threats, there may be violence used. But it's something that the people work on, it's a kind of grooming in a way. We are exploring what that is in this case and looking for the details," Detective InspectorKevin Hyland told reporters.

"We're talking about 30 years, so that is unique. We're also talking about the kind of control that, on the surface of it, looks like it may have spanned over a person's entire lifetime."

Few other details were immediately available, but the fate of the women evoked memories of lengthy abductions in the United States and Austria.

Hyland said the trail to the women began last month when the Freedom Charityreported a call from a woman who said she had been held against her will in the house after the organisation featured in the documentary.

Further inquiries led to a nondescript house in south London and, with the help of negotiations conducted by the charity, the rescue of the three women.

Hyland used the phrase 'invisible handcuffs' to describe the psychological means people can be held captive.

"Invisible handcuffs is a very good explanation of this because people feel they're controlled, people feel they have to do as they're told. And yet to the naked eye, there's no control whatsoever; it's all psychological, it's all through fear," he said.

Last month, the first Global Slavery Index revealed there were nearly 30 million people living as slaves in 162 countries and that Britain was not immune to the problem.

Although ranked 160th on the list, there were still estimated to be more than 4,000 slaves in Britain, an estimate that the index judged to be conservative.