Belfast Telegraph

Detectives quiz 'slavery victims'

Three women allegedly held as slaves will be formally interviewed by police for the first time today.

Officers have had indirect contact with the trio, who it is claimed were effectively brainwashed into remaining in a political collective for more than three decades, but have had to wait until trauma experts gave them the go-ahead to take their accounts in person.

Commander Steve Rodhouse said: "We have not yet been able to formally interview the victims in this case so we don't fully understand the nature of the allegations.

"We are moving to a point where we will be able to interview the victims and our plan is actually to do so today.

"The victims are in the care of specialists who have got great experience of dealing with people who have been subject to trauma. We're working to that advice of those experts as to how best to handle those victims, to support them and of course to draw out the evidence we would need to substantiate any prosecution."

He said that there may have been "many and varied offences" against the women, who were allegedly held captive at various addresses in London, but that their ordeal may not be defined as modern day slavery.

"We need to maintain an open mind on what this particular incident is before we jump to those conclusions and labels," Mr Rodhouse said.

But he added: "The crucial issue for us is that, on the basis of the information that we've had indirectly from victims, clearly criminal offences have been committed. What we need to do now is to understand that in much more detail."

A total of 47 officers are now working on the inquiry, launched after one of the women - a 30-year-old Briton, a 57-year-old Irishwoman and a 69-year-old Malaysian - contacted staff from the Freedom Charity last month, and eventually left the house in Brixton, south London, where they said they were being held.

Police agreed to wait until last week to arrest the suspected captors, said to be Maoist activists Aravindan Balakrishnan and his wife, Chanda Pattni.

Mr Rodhouse also said his team have requested court papers from the inquest into the death of Sian Davies, who was fatally injured when she fell from a window of a house used by the political group in Herne Hill, south London.

Police were not called to the house at the time of her death, but Mr Rodhouse is looking at which inquiries officers carried out on behalf of the coroner, who reached an open verdict.

"We have retrieved the court papers, the inquest papers, and we are in the process of reviewing those to see what they can tell us about the police involvement in that inquiry", he said.

"We were not called to the address at the time of Sian's death but we are reviewing what later involvement we had in assisting the coroner to come to that open verdict."

It is not yet clear what contact the women had with police, social and health services during the 30 years, he said.

Investigators are currently contacting 50 potential witnesses as part of their inquiry.


From Belfast Telegraph