A dawn raid on Wednesday revealed a 58-year-old man, thought to have been forced to live for 40 years in a six-foot shed and to be a victim of modern slavery. The Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) found the man in the wooden shed, which reportedly contained a makeshift soiled bed, a garden chair and a TV, in a residential area close to Carlisle in Cumbria.

The man was taken for a medical examination and specialist trauma officers will be assessing his mental health. The find led to a 79-year-old man being arrested, believed to be guilty of modern slavery offences.

Man found enslaved in a shed

The GLAA is an organisation working to protect exploited and vulnerable workers. It was after receiving a call on their confidential helpline that they investigated the property in Wednesday’s dawn raid.

GLAA senior investigating officer, Martin Plimmer, told the BBC that according to the information they received from the call, the man had been living in the shed over a period of 40 years.

Plimmer said that when they found the man, he was “like a rabbit in headlights.”

Officers said the man was very confused and was wearing only the clothes he stood up in. Plimmer went on to say there was only a dirty duvet on the floor of the shed for him to sleep on, no heating, and the shed was very cold. He added these were conditions no human being should be forced to live in.

As far as the GLAA is aware, the man had been forced into work without pay since he was around 16 or 17 years of age.

Plimmer said it was not clear if he had ever tried to escape his dire situation. He said the victim had been traumatised for such a long time, winning back the man’s trust will be a slow process.

Plimmer said he had never come across someone who had been held in slavery for potentially as much as 40 years in his very long career before. In fact, he believes the case could be potentially the longest period of captivity the organisation has had to deal with. Plimmer said it was an extremely serious and sad case.

Modern slavery exists across the UK

A statement from the GLAA advised that their operation was supported by the Cumbria Housing Department, Cumbria police officers and specialist officers with the National Crime Agency.

The housing department is investigating possible safety and health breaches in the raided home.

As reported by The Guardian, cases of modern slavery have been found across the UK in many forms. Cases involving the suspected practice have increased from a 2013 figure of 13,000 to as many as 136,000 cases in 2018. Authorities have recognised they are facing an “evolving threat” relating to modern slavery. The public has been called on to contact the GLAA if they should suspect that someone is being abused and exploited.