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updated: 11/22/2013 8:40 AM

UK police: 3 women were slaves 'in simple terms'

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  • Kevin Hyland, head of the Metropolitan Police's human trafficking unit speaks to the media outside New Scotland Yard's London headquarters in this image taken from TV Thursday Nov. 21, 2013.

      Kevin Hyland, head of the Metropolitan Police's human trafficking unit speaks to the media outside New Scotland Yard's London headquarters in this image taken from TV Thursday Nov. 21, 2013.
    Associated Press

 
Associated Press

LONDON -- Three women who were freed from a London home were victims of "slavery in simple terms," and were not trafficked or physically constrained, a senior police officer said Friday.

Police now are trying to figure out "what were the invisible handcuffs that were used" to exert such control, said Commander Steve Rodhouse.

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"It is not as brutally obvious as women being physically restrained inside an address and not being allowed to leave," Rodhouse said.

"This may have appeared to be a normal family," he said.

On Thursday, police disclosed that they had released a 69-year-old Malaysian, a 57-year-old Irish woman and a 30-year-old Briton from a home in south London on Oct. 25. Detective Inspector Kevin Hyland of the Metropolitan Police human trafficking unit said the women were "highly traumatized" and had "no real exposure to the outside world" for the past 30 years.

A man and a woman, both 67, were arrested early Thursday on suspicion of forced labor and domestic servitude. They have been also been arrested on suspicion of immigration offenses in the current case, police said.

Police said Friday that the pair had been arrested in the 1970s but wouldn't say why.

The suspectsn have surrendered their passports and agreed not to return to their house as part of their conditions to be freed on bail.

Police say they believe there are no other victims in the case, and they are confident that they know the true identifications of the three women. The relationships among the women are under investigation, police said.

"There has been physical abuse described as beatings," Hyland said. "We do not believe the victims were trafficked into the UK."

The arrests were part of a slavery investigation triggered when one of the women contacted a charity last month to say she was being held against her will.

The police also said there is no evidence to suggest anything of a sexual nature, but cautioned that the investigation continues. Police also would not speculate on any motivation, disclose the suspects' nationalities or say if the suspects were a couple.

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