Three women held captive in a London house for 30 years were beaten and brainwashed, police say, as Britain struggled to comprehend the ‘invisible chains’ that held them.
Detectives say they are trying to understand the “invisible handcuffs” used to control the women, including a 30-year-old who had spent her entire life in servitude, Commander Steve Rodhouse of London’s Metropolitan Police told reporters.
“What we have uncovered so far is a complicated and disturbing picture of emotional control over many years,” Rodhouse said.
“Brainwashing would be a simple term but I think that belittles the years of emotional abuse these victims have had to endure.”
He also revealed that the two suspects in the case, a man and a woman both aged 67 who were arrested at a house in south London on Thursday, had been detained before in the 1970s, but gave no further details.
Also suspected of immigration offences, the pair – who are both foreign nationals – have been provisionally released until January pending further investigations.
Their passports have been confiscated and they are not allowed to return to the house.
Rodhouse said the case was “unique”.
The women were rescued on October 25, one week after first making secret telephone contact with a charity.
They are a 69-year-old Malaysian, a 57-year-old from Ireland and the 30-year-old Briton.
The Guardian newspaper reported that police were investigating the possibility that the women were held as part of a cult, and that the British captive was the child of the Irish woman and the 67-year-old man.
Police declined to comment on these allegations.
Detectives do not believe the women were s*xually exploited or had been the victims of human trafficking, but they told police they had been beaten.
“It is not as brutally obvious as women being physically restrained inside an address and not being allowed to leave,” said Rodhouse.
Explaining the gap between the liberation of the women and the arrests of the two suspects, police said they had to be patient in trying to understand the women’s accounts.