A pensioner who ‘kept a man as a slave in a shed for 40 years’ has been released.
A 58-year-old man was discovered in the 6ft room on a residential site north of Carlisle in Cumbria in a dawn raid on Wednesday by officers from the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) who acted on a tip-off.
The suspected modern slavery victim was taken from the scene – reportedly a licensed traveller camp – by specialist trauma officers to be medically examined and assessed.
On Friday, the GLAA said the man was ‘doing well’ but added that it would be a ‘hard process’ to help him recover and earn his trust.
A 79-year-old man held on suspicion of slavery offences has been released as inquiries continue.
It is suspected that the victim was locked into the tiny room when he was just 18 years old in 1978.
GLAA senior investigating officer Martin Plimmer said: ‘This is a really sad and traumatic case.
‘In my many years of working in law enforcement and tackling really serious incidents of labour exploitation, I have never witnessed anything like this.
‘Our initial reports were that the victim had been living in the shed for the last 40 years and this appears to be the case at this stage.
‘I have never known or even heard of a modern slavery case which has lasted for such a long time.’
When he was discovered he was said to have looked like a ‘rabbit in the headlights’ because he was so startled to be freed.
Pictures from the scene show a filthy blanket on the floor next to a flat-screen TV and a garden chair.
There was also an electric heater that didn’t work in the tiny room.
Mr Plimmer continued: ‘Inside the shed, it was freezing cold. There was no heating and even the television was metered. There was just a soiled duvet on the floor where he was sleeping.
‘It’s worth reiterating again just how small and cramped his living conditions were. No-one should have to live like this anywhere.
‘After finding the victim, we made sure he was taken off the site and given the medical support that he needed.
‘He was very confused and emotionally vulnerable when we rescued him, which is completely understandable for someone who we believe has been held in captivity for all his adult life.
‘He is doing well but it will be a long and hard process to help him recover and win our trust. However, this is something we and our partners are totally committed to achieving.’
Mr Plimmer said the man appeared to have been made to carry out unpaid work from the age of 16 or 17.