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'Indian-origin 'slave owner' in UK a Marxist-Communist'

November 24, 2013 18:41 IST

An Indian-origin man who was arrested for allegedly holding three women as slaves in London for 30 years met his victims at a Marxist 'collective', according to media reports on Sunday.

The Scotland Yard on Saturday revealed the identity of the two suspects as an Indian-origin man and a Tanzanian-origin woman, both 67, who had met the women victims through a "shared political ideology".

The couple, believed to be married, were members of a Marxist-Communist group that lived together in London in the 1970s, The Sunday Times quoted sources as saying.

The couple was arrested earlier this week on charges of slavery and immigration offences after three women -- a Malaysian woman, 69, an Irish woman, 57, and a British woman, 30 -- were freed by the police from a house in south London.

The women, who were said to be "highly traumatised", were held against their will for decades. The suspects have been freed on bail while investigations continue.

"We believe that two of the victims met the male suspect in London through a shared political ideology and that they lived together at an address that you could effectively call a collective," Commander Steve Rodhouse of the Metropolitan police said.

It has also emerged that for over three decades social workers were aware of the dysfunctional "family" where three women were allegedly kept as slaves.

They are suspected of keeping the women in a state of domestic servitude. The police confirmed that the older couple had been previously arrested in the 1970s but did not elaborate.

The arrests were made after the Irish woman contacted the Freedom charity last month and informed that she had been held against her will in a house in London for over 30 years.

The victims were said to be terrified of their captors and suffered alleged physical abuse. They were only able to leave the home under carefully controlled circumstances. The police is continuing with house-to-house inquiries near a block of flats in Brixton, south London, where the women are believed to have been living since 2005.

One neighbour said the youngest of the three appeared scared of the man. The police have not confirmed her relationship to the other adults, but sources have suggested she was the daughter of the Irish woman.

The Indian-origin head of the household, reportedly a dominant and powerful character, is said to be her father. Legal experts here fear the suspect couple may never face justice as the laws are not very clear on the issue. The British government has issued a series of statements about plans to toughen the rules.

"The first step to eradicating the scourge of modern slavery is acknowledging and confronting its existence. The second is accepting it is the responsibility of us all to abolish it once and for all," home secretary Theresa May wrote in The Sunday Telegraph.

"That is why I have made combating trafficking central to our Serious and Organised Crime Strategy and a priority for the new national crime agency. And it is why I am introducing a Modern Slavery Bill to consolidate and strengthen legislation. The bill will be the first of its kind in Europe," she added.

Aditi Khanna in London
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