Family rejoices as Malaysian police identify ‘slave’ victim

Family rejoices as Malaysian police identify ‘slave’ victim

JELEBU, Malaysia - Police in Kuala Lumpur said Wednesday one of three women allegedly held as slaves in London for 30 years was a Malaysian who went missing in the 1960s, prompting a joyous reaction from the long-lost woman's sister.

Malaysia's top police official Khalid Abu Bakar, citing information provided by British police, confirmed the woman was Siti Aishah Abdul Wahab, The Star newspaper said in a brief report on its website.

Siti Aishah, who would now be 69, had left to study in Britain around 1968 but her family lost track of her soon after that, relatives told AFP.

"I will hug her and cry if she comes back home," Siti Aishah's eldest sister, Hasnah Abdul Wahab, 88, said when told of the police announcement.

"I thank Allah he has realised my prayers to meet Siti Aishah before I die," she told AFP in the family's hometown of Jelebu in southern Malaysia, as she held a photo of Siti Aishah as a young woman.

"I will hold a feast to thank Allah. We have been looking for her for a long, long time."

Police have arrested two people identified by British media as radical Maoists for holding the three women in a case that has shocked Britain.

The three "slaves", who also included a 57-year-old Irish woman and a 30-year-old Briton believed to have spent her life in servitude, were freed on October 25 after one of them secretly contacted a charity.

The couple, who have been released on bail, have been named by British newspapers as Indian-born Aravindan Balakrishnan and his Tanzanian wife Chanda.

British police have kept a lid on the facts of the case during investigations.

But Siti Aishah's brother-in-law Mohamad Noh Mohamad Dom said his wife Kamar Mahtum had flown to London on Wednesday to identify her sister after a British media outlet earlier told the family the woman may be her.

"We have mixed feelings," he told AFP.

"Happy, because we believe we have found a lost family member, and sad, because we hear that she is sick and has been held captive for more than 30 years."

Kamar, 69, in an interview with Britain's Daily Telegraph published on Tuesday, described a bright and optimistic young woman. Decades-old photos published in Malaysian media pictured a smiling and fresh-faced student.

After studying at one of Malaysia's elite schools, she obtained a scholarship to study quantity surveying in England but is believed to have fallen under the spell of the Maoist couple.

Prominent Malaysian activist Hishamuddin Rais has been quoted by local media as saying Siti Aishah had joined several other Malaysian students in a leftist group in Britain called the "New Malayan Youth" in the 1970s.

"When my wife found out that Siti Aishah is alive and has been saved from being held as captive, she cried," Mohamad Noh said.

The Star reported Wednesday that the country's High Commission in London was pressing Britain for consular access to the woman.

"I am not sure if she will remember me but I am hopeful she will," Kamar told The Malaysian Insider news portal before leaving for London.

British media have reported the Malaysian slave victim had suffered a stroke recently.

Police said the women, believed to have been living in a flat in south London, were brainwashed and had reported being beaten.

Police said Saturday the two older victims had met their male captor through a "shared political ideology" and initially lived with him as part of a collective.

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