Couple arrested on suspicion of modern slavery, after keeping Polish builder locked in their shed
A university lecturer and her husband have been arrested after a Polish builder claimed the couple kept him as a slave in their garden shed for four years.
Pritpal Binning, 56, and her partner Palvinder, 54, are accused of keeping the man in "degrading and disgusting" conditions against his will, as he worked on their five-bedroom £1.2 million ($1.5 million) house in Hampshire, England.
The Polish national told police he had been forced to work in exchange for food, and that he had slept on a plastic sun lounger in a shed at the bottom of the garden with no working toilet. In addition, he claimed that his kitchen was comprised of only a barbecue and a fridge.
It is alleged that on one occasion while he was working, he stopped to chat with a neighbour but was told off by Mrs Binning.
Police were alerted to the situation after the man, said to be in his 40s, walked into an NHS centre in Southhampton looking "frail".
The accused couple, who live in an affluent area that is home to several professional footballers, were arrested by the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA), assisted by Hampshire Police, and have been released pending further investigation.
The lecturer in health sciences at the University of Southampton reportedly refused to comment on her and her husband's arrest. Speaking to reporters at her home, she apparently stated: "I know why you're here. We're not going to talk. You just want a story, I'm not going to talk about it."
The Polish man, aged in his 40s, has been accepted into the government’s National Referral Mechanism, a framework for identifying victims of human trafficking or modern slavery and ensuring they receive the support they need.
Commenting on the case, Tony Byrne, senior investigating officer at the GLAA, Britain's anti-slavery body, said: "First and foremost, we are pleased that the man is now receiving the help and support he so desperately needs. In the 21st century, no one should be forced to live in such degrading and disgusting conditions."
Byrne also stressed how important it was for members of the public to get in touch when they suspect a case of modern slavery.
"Following the two arrests we made, our investigation is ongoing as we examine and assess the evidence we collected from the property," he said. "I would also like to praise the NHS staff who reported their concerns. It's really important that people get in touch if they believe someone is being exploited. By contacting us, we can ensure that some of the most vulnerable people in society are protected and supported."
The arrest comes only weeks after specialist officers in the north of England rescued another potential slavery victim who had allegedly lived in a shed for 40 years.
A 79-year-old British man was arrested on suspicion of modern slavery after a potential victim was discovered living in a 6ft shed in Cumbria.