London 'slavery house': Police alerted Lambeth Council 15 years ago

Latest: Reports suggest alleged victims may have been moved around several times over three decades

Lambeth Council are facing questions tonight about its failure to intervene earlier to help the women allegedly held as slaves for three decades, as it emerged that police had contacted officials with concerns about the family 15 years ago.

The three women – a 69-year-old from Malaysia, a 57-year-old from Ireland and a 30-year-old Briton – are alleged to have been held against their will, beaten and subjected to psychological abuse after the older two joined what police called “a collective” organised around a shared political ideology more than 35 years ago.

A man and woman, both 67, of Indian and Tanzanian origin, were arrested on Thursday.

Police have not confirmed the relationship of the younger women to the others, but it has been suggested she is the daughter of the Irish woman, while the 67-year-old head of the household is reported to be her father.

The five are thought to have lived in a former housing association flat in Brixton, south London, since 2005.

According to reports in The Guardian this morning, police have identified as many as 13 separate properties in London linked to the two suspects. The sheer number suggests that the alleged victims may have been moved around several times over the course of the last three decades.

During her ordeal the youngest woman sent a letter to a neighbour saying she was “a fly trapped in a spider’s web”, it was claimed yesterday.

The woman reportedly told Marius Feneck, 26, that she could not flee because the windows and doors were locked. She said that she arrived in Britain as a baby and the couple who allegedly kept her captive viewed her as their daughter.

In one letter obtained by the Sunday Express and published yesterday, she is alleged to have written: “Do not try to do anything for me. Nothing I said or did made any difference.

“I can’t get out on my own. My life is not worth living if I let harm come to you. So I am like a fly trapped in a spider’s web.”

Lambeth Council has already begun trawling its records for any information about its contact with those living in the flat. Today it emerged that the local authority may have been alerted to concerns about the family at least 15 years ago, after a member of the public reported suspicions that the youngest woman, then aged 15, was not attending school. Police are understood to have passed on the report to Lambeth Council but it is unclear what, if anything, was done.

One councillor, speaking to The Independent on the condition of anonymity, said the local authority was “effectively ‘playing catch-up’ with police investigations”.

“That this family was already known to them is not something that the council has chosen to refute. But something as basic as not following-up on school attendance for such a long period of time invariably asks difficult questions.”

Ashley Lumsden, leader of the Liberal Democrats in Lambeth, called for a nationwide investigation. “We are extremely concerned at the reports we have seen and are looking to the council to explain its involvement from a housing, educational and social services perspective. We want a review conducted promptly and to be published so that we can consider it and so that lessons can be learnt.”

A spokesman for Lambeth Council said: “It is vital that the police conduct a thorough investigation into these extremely complex and serious allegations and that the women receive support following their appalling ordeal. We will offer any assistance the police require to ensure there is justice for the women."

The Home Secretary Theresa May said slavery had a “shocking presence in modern Britain” and that tackling it was her “personal priority”.

Calling for the investigation to be “allowed to take its course”, she said slavery had become endemic in Britain. “It is walking our streets, supplying shops and supermarkets, working in fields, factories or nail bars, trapped in brothels or cowering behind the curtains in an ordinary street,” she wrote.

Aneeta Prem, a magistrate and founder of the Freedom Charity, told The Independent that the case was “the tip of the iceberg” and that since news of this case broke last week, the charity had been inundated with cases of people in  “similar situations”.

News
The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised
people
Life and Style
tech

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

Sport
football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Bloom Time: Mira Sorvino
tvMira Sorvino on leaving movie roles for 'The Intruders'
News
First woman: Valentina Tereshkova
peopleNASA guinea pig Kate Greene thinks it might fly
News
Brian Harvey turned up at Downing Street today demanding to speak to the Prime Minister
news

Met Police confirm there was a 'minor disturbance' and that no-one was arrested

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010
films

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Voices
Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'
voices

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Life and Style
The charity Sands reports that 11 babies are stillborn everyday in the UK
lifeEleven babies are stillborn every day in the UK, yet no one speaks about this silent tragedy
News
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)
news

Parties threaten resort's image as a family destination

Life and Style
Northern soul mecca the Wigan Casino
fashionGone are the punks, casuals, new romantics, ravers, skaters, crusties. Now all kids look the same
Life and Style
gaming

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Salisbury ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities

The city is home to one of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta, along with the world’s oldest mechanical clock
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album