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Three London ‘Slaves’ Rescued After 30 Years

In a movie-worthy plotline, three women have been rescued from a house in London after being held captive for more than 30 years by a married couple, and forced to be their domestic slaves.

After more than three decades, the women were rescued from their enslavement from what appeared to be an ordinary home in an ordinary neighbourhood. The Metropolitan police’s human trafficking unit worked with a charity organisation and arrested Aravindan and Chanda Balakrishnan, after investigations into what they described as the most heinous example of modern-day slavery.

The 69-year-old Malaysian woman is thought to be Aisha Wahab after relative and friends stepped forward. Back in the 1970s Aisha was a student in London who became involved with far-left politics and the same Maoist group, but has been missing for about 30 years. And when police raided the memorial centre in 1978, one of the people taken to court gave their name as the same as the lost Malaysian student.

It is also thought that the 57-year-old Irish national is Josephine Herivel, daughter of mathematician and German Enigma Cipher codebreaker John Herivel, who died in 2011 aged 92. Josephine apparently moved to England in the 1970s and joined a group at the Mao Zedong Memorial Centre in Brixton, London, set up by Balakrishnan, also known as Comrade Bala.

The youngest of the three women, a 30-year-old British woman, has been reported to be Rosie Davies, daughter of Sian Davies who had also been a member of the Maoist association. Sian, a former economics student in London, fell from the window of another house that the group occupied on Christmas Eve, 1996. The following August she died in hospital aged 44, but the coroner was unsure exactly how she died, and so recorded an open verdict on her death.

Rosie is thought to have born into the slavery, not having contact with the outside world in her 30 years, and Sian’s family has stated that they are more than happy to take DNA tests to find out whether or not Rosie is related to them.

The rescue mission began after the Irish captive saw Aneeta Prem, founder of a group called the Freedom Charity, being interviewed on television and called the helpline saying how she and two others had been held against their will for more than 30 years. “The Irish lady saw me on TV, and the name of the charity was a catalyst,” explained Prem. “That is exactly what [the captive women] wanted, they wanted freedom.”

The charity passed the information along to the police, who started investigations to establish exactly where the women were being held. At the same time, Freedom Charity workers communicated with the enslaved women through secret telephone calls. All of this carefully choreographed work led to the three women finally walking into their freedom on 25 October.

The Balakrishnans were arrested on suspicion being involved in forcing labour and domestic servitude and have been bailed out until January.

The women are now trying to adjust to their new freedom, in the care of a charity, but it is likely to take a very long time. “They are going to be afforded all the help and support they can be given,” said Prem. “I’m so grateful they saw the news, now they will try to rebuild their lives. It was a very, very difficult life they led and all we can hope now is they can move forward from this.”

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