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London slavery case suspects are ex-Maoists

The two suspects in the infamous London slavery case uncovered last week have been identified as ex-Maoists Aravindan Balakrishnan and his wife Chanda.

world Updated: Nov 25, 2013 22:02 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar

The two suspects in the infamous London slavery case uncovered last week have been identified as ex-Maoists Aravindan Balakrishnan and his wife Chanda.

The husband-wife duo were leading members of the Mao Zedong Memorial Centre based in Brixton in the 1970s. They were arrested at the time, according to Marxist archives accessed by the BBC.

The police, however, refused to confirm or deny the suspects' names. Balakrishnan is said to be Indian while Chanda is of Tanzanian origin.

The three women rescued from Lambeth in south London after 30 years were beaten and subjected to emotional control by the two suspects who were arrested on Thursday and bailed earlier on Friday, according to new details released by the police.

The Metropolitan Police said the case — described as ‘London’s shame’ by the British press— was ‘unique’ and unlike any case of slavery they had encountered before. Commander Steve Redhouse said the victims had given a “disturbing picture” of their experience, and seemed to be restrained by “invisible handcuffs”.

The case threw fresh light on modern-day slavery in Britain, where charity organisations and officials work together to rescue people from seemingly normal homes and residential areas in London and elsewhere. Several such cases involve Indian citizens or people of Indian origin.

The three women were rescued on October 25 and the police arrested the two suspects on Thursday. The suspects, reported to be husband and wife (both 67), had been arrested in the 1970s.

One of the three rescued, the 30-year-old British woman, had spent her life in captivity. The police were trying to establish if she was born in the house. The other two women have been identified as Malaysian, 69, and Irish, 57.

Aneeta Prem, the Indian-origin founder of Freedom Charity, the NGO that was at the centre of the rescue efforts, said, “We’re looking at people who were kept against their will in an ordinary residential street in central London.”

The Irish woman made initial contact with Freedom Charity after seeing Prem on a television documentary about human trafficking in October. A series of secret phone calls were used to build up a rapport with the women before the rescue.