Irishwoman among three rescued from London house after 30 years of slavery

Middle-aged couple arrested today; ’deeply traumatised’ victims rescued last month

Detective Inspector Kevin Hyland speaks to the press outside New Scotland Yard in London today. Photograph: Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA

Detective Inspector Kevin Hyland speaks to the press outside New Scotland Yard in London today. Photograph: Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA


An Irishwoman in her 50s is one of three victims who were rescued by police after spending 30 years as the slaves of a middle-aged couple who were arrested in London early today.

The traumatised victims were rescued from a house in Lambeth in South London last month, it emerged this afternoon, nearly a month ago after one of the three telephoned a freephone number for a charity after they had watched a programme about forced labour.

Mystery surrounds much of the story so far. However, one woman is a Malaysian, aged 69; the Irish woman is said to be 57, along with a 30 year old British woman “who has never known freedom”, the Metropolitan Police said today,.

The three are being cared for by medical staff, but it has taken police weeks to piece together their story: “They have been deeply traumatised by their experience, so it has taken a long time to get the details straight,” said Detective Inspector Kevin Hyland.

The path to freedom began when one of them telephoned Freedom Charity after watching a programme on forced marriages, saying that she had been held for 30 years. A number of telephone calls then occurred over days and weeks before the three walked out of the property.

Det Insp Hyland said they had had “some controlled freedom” during their incarceration, but the full details are still being pieced together.

He could not give any information about the identity of the Irishwoman, even to say that she is from the Republic, or Northern Ireland.

Previously, the Metropolitan Police have found forced labour victims who have been held for 10 years, but never for anything like 30, Det. Insp. Hyland said.

However, a number of cases involving Irish travellers over the last two years had victims who were held for more than 20 years.

Aneeta Prem, the founder of the Freedom Charity 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.”

The arrested couple are not British nationals, though no more information is yet on offer. They were considered as “the heads of the family” and 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 are absolutely thrilled this has happened,” she told the TV stations.

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore has said the Irish embassy in London will be trying to find out who the Irish woman is: “Obviously it is something our embassy in London will be looking at in more detail and to see who the woman is and who her family are and so on. But from what I‘ve heard it’s a horrific experience,” he told Newstalk Radio.