KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 25 — The three women, including a Malaysian, who were held as slaves for 30 years in London were not physically restrained, but were bound with “invisible handcuffs” in a communist collective run by their captors, the Daily Telegraphreported yesterday.
The UK newspaper reported that the two suspects in one of Britain’s strangest cases of modern-day slavery had run a communist collective in the 1970s that worshipped Chinese communist revolutionary leader, Chairman Mao Zedong, and that recruited women from other far left-wing groups, who were encouraged to engage in “revolutionary work”.
Police who probe slavery and domestic servitude allegations reportedly said that the London slavery case was unique and that as part of their “extremely complex” investigation, they are trying to understand the “invisible handcuffs” that prevented the three victims from leaving the group.
The alleged captors, who are husband and wife and reportedly hail from India and Tanzania, were arrested last week for holding three women against their will in a house in London for at least three decades, but have since been released on bail.
The couple was suspected of subjecting their three female victims — a 69-year-old Malaysian, a 57-year-old Irish, and a 30-year-old Briton — to physical and mental abuse.
The Daily Telegraph reported that the couple, based in Brixton, south London, had set up a “notorious communist squat” in 1974 and were subsequently imprisoned in connection with their political activities.
The organisation reportedly published pamphlets calling for the downfall of Western capitalism, besides running study groups, lectures and organising film screenings.
The UK newspaper reported that the police arrested 14 members of the organisation in 1978, including the two leaders, who were subsequently jailed for assaulting a police officer.
The organisation then reportedly broke up after the headquarters were closed, with the two leaders moving into a squat in Brixton with several followers.
Commander Steve Rodhouse from the Metropolitan Police, who is leading the investigation into allegations of slavery, was reported by the Daily Telegraph as saying that the Malaysian and the Irish women had met their alleged captors through a political group.
“We believe that two of the victims met the male suspect in London through a shared political ideology, and that they lived together at an address that you could effectively call a ‘collective’,” Rodhouse was quoted as saying.
“Somehow that collective came to an end and how the women ended up continuing to live with the suspects. How this resulted in the women living in this way for over 30 years is what are seeking to establish, but we believe emotional and physical abuse has been a feature of all the victims’ lives,” he added.
Local news website The Star Online reportedly said last Saturday that the Malaysian High Commission in London has contacted the British police and Freedom Charity, a UK-based charity group that initiated the rescue mission after being contacted by one of the captives, to get in touch with the Malaysian victim.