A man believed to have been living in a squalid, 6-foot wooden shed for more than 40 years in what has been called a case of “modern slavery” is now free.
The 58-year-old British man was found Wednesday in Carlisle, about 10 miles away from the Scotland border, during a raid conducted by the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA).
The shed, located on a residential property, had no heat and contained only a chair, television and dirty bedding, authorities said.
“When we found him, he was like a rabbit in headlights and very confused,” Martin Plimmer, the GLAA's senior investigating officer, told the BBC. “Where he was sleeping in the shed, there was just a soiled duvet on the floor. There was no heating and it was very cold.”
Plimmer added: “It was conditions that no human being should live in."
The man was taken for medical evaluations and trauma counseling following the rescue, and authorities said he will continue to receive ongoing support.
"He has been traumatized for such a length of time that it will be a slow process to win back his trust," Plimmer said.
The man is believed to have been working without pay since 16 or 17 years old and was found only after authorities received an anonymous tip.
“We've never come across anyone who has been held as a slave potentially for 40 years,” Plimmer said. “This, I think, could be the longest period of captivity that we have dealt with.”
A 79-year-old British man was arrested “on suspicion of modern slavery offenses” and released pending an investigation, the GLAA said in a statement.
However, family members claimed the 58-year-old was free to come and go as he chooses.
"He's a free man. He's had everything given to him but this is how he chooses to live,” a relative of the 79-year-old told The Mirror. They explained the 79-year-old offered the man a place to stay and even welcoming him into his home to sleep on the sofa, "but he won’t do it."
Authorities are also alerting the public to be aware of any other possible modern-day slavery victims.
“Hidden signs make it difficult to identify a victim, but common indications include poor physical appearance, isolation, poor living conditions, few or no personal effects, restricted freedom of movement, unusual travel times and a reluctance to seek help," Detective Chief Inspector Helen Harkins said in a statement.
“We would like to stress that anyone of any race or background could be a victim of modern-day slavery. Offenders tend to target people who are vulnerable and isolated," she added.