Three "deeply traumatized" women were rescued from a London house where they were believed to have been held captive for more than 30 years in a "barbaric" ordeal, authorities said Thursday.
One of the alleged victims, a 30-year-old British woman, is believed to have been living in the house all her life with no contact with the outside world, police said.
"We have never seen anything of this magnitude before," Detective Inspector Kevin Hyland, from the Metropolitan Police's Human Trafficking Unit, told a press conference on Thursday.
The Met said in an earlier statement that a man and a woman, both 67, were arrested at the house in Lambeth, South London, "as part of an investigation into slavery and domestic servitude."
The arrests came two weeks after officers rescued a 69-year-old Malaysian woman, a 57-year-old Irish woman, and the 30-year-old British woman.
Police said there was no evidence of sexual abuse and they did not believe that the women were related to each other.
The information was only released after officers made the arrests at approximately 7.30 a.m. (2.30 a.m. ET) Thursday morning.
Officers became aware of the situation after one of the women made a telephone call to a domestic abuse non-profit organization called Freedom Charity.
Hyland said that police believed the woman had "some controlled freedom" while in the house.
"These are deeply traumatized people," he said. "They have been taken to a place of safety.
"We applaud the actions of Freedom Charity and are working in partnership to support these victims who appear to have been held for over 30 years. We have launched an extensive investigation to establish the facts surrounding these very serious allegations."
He added: "We have dealt with many cases of servitude. We have seen cases where people have been held for up to 10 years, but we have never seen anything of this magnitude before."
A documentary on forced marriages relating to the work of Freedom Charity had prompted one of the women to call for help, claiming she had been held against her will in the house for 30 years.
Speaking on Sky News, Aneeta Prem, founder of the Freedom Charity, said the three women agreed to contact the charity after they saw her speaking on television.
"That gave them the courage to make that phone call," she said. "It was very difficult for them, but they managed to get to a phone.
"We talked to them when we could. It had to be a secret because they felt they were in massive danger and with the help of the police we were able to get them out."
She described the women’s ordeal as "barbaric" and said they were "terrified" of their captors. "I can’t believe human beings can treat each other in that way," she added.
Prem said that the house in which they were kept was an "ordinary house in an ordinary street that would not raise concerns."
"They did have rooms that they could use but they were very restricted."
First published November 22 2013, 7:30 AM