British Police said today that the three women who allegedly spent 30 years enslaved in a South London house were held captive more by "invisible handcuffs" than physical restraint.
Speaking at a news conference at New Scotland Yard in Central London, Cmdr. Steve Rodhouse said that "domestic servitude or forced labor is far too simple. What we have uncovered so far is a complicated and disturbing picture of emotional control over many years. ... Brainwashing would be the ... simplest term."
While the police did not elaborate on the conditions the women were kept in, Rodhouse believes this wasn't a case of sexual exploitation, or "what we all understand as human trafficking."
As the investigation continues with police combing through 30 years worth of testimony that the women have provided, few details have been released. While police have said they didn't see evidence of physical restraint, Rodhouse said the women told police they had been beaten.
Talking to ABC News, Detective Inspector Kevin Hyland of the Metropolitan Police human trafficking unit said the women "are obviously traumatized" but are being looked after in a "well-cared-for environment."
Although the three women -- a 69-year-old from Malaysia, a 57-year-old from Ireland and a 30-year-old from Great Britain -- had managed to leave the house in Lambeth, South London, on Oct. 25, it was not until Thursday that their case became public. That same day police arrested two people, both 67 and believed to be a couple, on suspicion of immigration offenses.
“”What we have uncovered so far is a complicated and disturbing picture of emotional control over many years. ... Brainwashing would be the ... simplest term. -- New Scotland Yard in Central London, Cmdr. Steve Rodhouse
Speaking to reporters today, Aneeta Prem, who established Freedom Charity, the group that was initially contacted by one of the women trapped inside the house, said that "invisible handcuffs is a very good way of describing it."
The exact location of the house has not been revealed but police today said it was "unremarkable. ... At this stage, to the outside world, this may have appeared to be a 'normal' family," police said.
Police spent 12 hours collecting evidence from the house -- 55 bags have been collected, amounting to some 2,500 evidence exhibits.
The two suspects, who had been previously arrested in the 1970s, have been released on bail but have been told to not return to the house.
As for the women, "They're doing remarkably well, considering the amount of trauma," Prem said. She said it would be a long road to recovery considering that they came out the house with "absolutely nothing at all."