A British university lecturer and her husband have been arrested on suspicion of modern slavery for allegedly keeping a Polish man in a garden shed for four years, the Sun and other UK outlets are reporting.
Pritpal Binning, 56, and her husband Palvinder, 54, have been accused of keeping the worker locked to the shed with a pool lounge chair for a bed and no toilet, according to the newspaper. The couple had allegedly been doing extensive building work to their five-bedroom £1.2 million (about $1.5 million) home in Hampshire.
The man, who has been described as being in his 40s, told police he had been forced to work in exchange for food, according to The Telegraph, and added that he had only been given a plastic sun lounger to sleep in a shed at the bottom of the garden, which wasn’t equipped with a working toilet or a heating unit, leaving him to sleep in freezing temperatures. The victim said his kitchen comprised only of a barbecue and a fridge, the report continued.
The couple was arrested in a raid on their home by the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA), with assistance from the Hampshire Police. The two have been released pending further investigation, as per The Telegraph report.
“Just down the bottom of the garden there in a concrete shed, it’s absolutely freezing in there, there’s no bedding and no sanitary conditions there at all, there’s no toilet,” said Tony Byrne, GLAA senior investigating officer, as quoted by Metro.
The police were called to investigate after public hospital staff of a walk-in center the man attended raised the alarm.
“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 said, as quoted in the Telegraph report.
Binning, who works as a lecturer in health sciences at the University of Southampton, declined to comment on her and her husband’s arrest, but briefly addressed the press when reporters showed up at her home.
“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,” she said, according to The Telegraph.
A male neighbor told reported that he had seen a white man working around the property and that he was shocked to hear of the allegations about the “nice” couple.
“I did go round there once, a few years back. They’ve lived here for at least 20 years – they were certainly nice when I went round there,” the neighbor said, as quoted in the Metro report.