By Martin Evans, and Sam Marsden
The two suspects in the south London slavery case ran a Communist collective in the 1970s that worshipped the Chinese leader Chairman Mao, the Daily Telegraph has learned.
The husband and wife, who are from India and Tanzania originally, were arrested last week on suspicion of holding three women against their will for more than 30-years.
It is alleged they subjected them to beatings and emotional abuse and were only allowed to leave their Brixton flat in controlled circumstances.
The pair, who are both aged 69, arrived in Britain in the 1960s and were associated with a number of extreme left political groups known to the police and security services.
Last month a 57-year-old Irish woman contacted the Freedom Charity to report that she and two other women were being held as slaves.
Working with the police, the charity was able to remove her, a 69-year-old from Malaysia and a 30-year-old British woman, to a place of safety.
Last week detectives from the Metropolitan Police’s human trafficking unit moved in and arrested the couple who had remained at the address.
Police who investigate allegations of slavery and domestic servitude have described the situation as unique and accept the women were not physically restrained by their alleged captors.
They have said as part of the “extremely complex” investigation they are seeking to understand the “invisible handcuffs” that prevented the women from leaving the group.
The Daily Telegraph has learned that the couple arrested last week were well known to the police having set up a notorious Communist squat in 1974 and have both served prison sentences associated with their political activities.
Based in Brixton, south London, the couple set about recruiting women from other far left groups, encouraging them to engage in “revolutionary work”.
The organisation published political pamphlets calling for the downfall of Western Capitalism and also ran lectures, study groups and held film screenings.
In 1978 police raided their premises, arresting 14 members of the organisation, including the two leaders, who were later jailed after being convicted of assaulting a police officer.
After the headquarters were closed, the organisation is understood to have broken up with the two heads of the group moving into a squat in Brixton with a number of their followers.
The collective were later given social housing by Lambeth Council and moved into a large house in the Herne Hill area.
A neighbour who remembered them said they lived at the property for about six years until around 2003.
She said they were very private and would always leave the house in groups.
The woman, who did not want to be named, said: “I remember three or four of them living there for about five or six years. I remember an Indian man who used to take the women shopping. He always wore a necktie. There was no other man.
“There was also a tall, slim white woman and another little Asian woman. They would never speak. We always saw them coming in and out with shopping but they never spoke.
“One day the police came and told me an older woman living in that house had died falling out of a window at the back. They asked if I had seen anything. I said no and they never got back to me.”
Commander Steve Rodhouse from the Metropolitan Police, who is leading the investigation into allegations of slavery, confirmed that the two older women had first met their alleged captors through a political group.
He said: “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’.”
He added: “Somehow that collective came to an end and how the women ended up continuing to live with the suspects. How this resulted in the women living in this way for over 30 years is what are seeking to establish, but we believe emotional and physical abuse has been a feature of all the victims’ lives.”
The couple have been bailed until a date in January and are not allowed to return to the three bedroom housing association flat, where the alleged abuse took place.
Categories: Left and Right