Belfast Telegraph

Josephine Herivel's 'fellow slave' is reunited with family

By James Edgar

The sister of one of three women allegedly held as slaves in London for more than three decades has described coming face-to-face with her relative for the first time in 35 years.

Kamar Mahtum said her sister Aishah Wahab (69) disowned her family in Malaysia in 1968 and "disappeared" in Britain.

She said her relative, one of three allegedly held for at least 30 years in Brixton, south London, told her there were people who "need" her and "there was work to do still".

The other women included Josephine Herivel (57) from Belfast, a former Methodist College pupil.

A man and woman, both 67, of Indian and Tanzanian origin, were arrested two weeks ago as part of a police investigation.

Ms Mahtum said she was "emotional" during the reunion, but her sister "wasn't that much".

"She was rather composed," she said. "She is strong, much stronger than me. She never encroached into her mysterious life."

Ms Mahtum said she believed her sister did not reveal many details of her alleged enslavement because police were listening to their conversation.

"She never told me where she lived or how she survived," she said. "I asked her, and she said she was fine, and I asked her how she got by. She said she had got friends, many friends, who need her, who help her."

Ms Mahtum said she spent around 90 minutes with Ms Wahab, and knew immediately she was her sister because she addressed her by a nickname.

She told the programme she was surprised by her good health and agility.

Ms Mahtum said they talked about how Ms Wahab's family in Malaysia missed her.

She said she asked why Ms Wahab did not come home for so many years.

"She said, 'There are people here who need me more than my family', and then I was quite hurt by that and I couldn't do anything.

"And then she said, 'Everybody takes care of me here, and if I go to Malaysia I have nothing to do'.

"She kept on saying, 'I have work to do still. I will get home when I finish my work'."


Josephine Herivel (57) was born in Belfast and educated at Methodist College. The talented musician, who is one of three daughters, was raised in south Belfast before moving to England. Josephine and two other women escaped the house they were living in after 30 years of enslavement when she decided to alert the authorities last month.

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