VICTIMS of slavery are "well-hidden" - and police need the public's help to save them, says a top officer.

Detective Chief Inspector Gavin Dudfield, of Dorset Police's Public Protection Unit, spoke out after two people were acquitted of slavery charges at Bournemouth Crown Court on Monday.

Married couple Mary Turner, 64, and David Porter, 66, of Cold Harbour in Wareham, were found unfit to plead by psychiatrists.

The defendants were charged with a 16-count indictment alleging slavery and theft offences in September 2014.

Some of the alleged offences were against four individuals aged between their late 30s and early 70s. All of the complainants are British nationals and identified as having been trafficked, police claimed.

Charges included holding a person in servitude, failing to notify an authority of a change in circumstances and fraud.

They were formally found not guilty of all charges after prosecutors said it was no longer in the public interest to proceed.

DCI Dudfield said: “Dorset Police takes servitude, modern slavery and human trafficking offences extremely seriously. All victims will be listened to and safeguarded.

“We know that human trafficking and modern slavery can happen anywhere in the country and we are working to stamp it out in Dorset. With partners, our officers target various locations across the county to ensure individuals are not being trafficked or forced into work.

“There is no ‘typical’ victim of human trafficking and modern slavery. Victims can be men, women and children of all ages, ethnicities, nationalities and backgrounds. It can, however, be more prevalent amongst the most vulnerable members of society, and within minority or socially excluded groups.

“While our officers investigate these offences and support victims, these crimes are known to be very well hidden, so we really need the general public of Dorset to be vigilant to any signs of exploitation.

“If you are being trafficked or enslaved, or you have any suspicions or concerns that someone is, please do not hesitate to report it to the police."

Victims of human trafficking and modern slavery may show signs of physical abuse, look malnourished or unkempt, or be living in dirty, cramped of overcrowded accommodation.

They may seem under the control or influence of others and appear unfamiliar within their neighbourhood. In addition, victims may have no identification documents and few person possessions.

DCI Dudfield said officers first visited Mrs Turner and Mr Porter's home after receiving "intelligence".

"Detectives carried out a lengthy and complex investigation which centered on allegations that four people were being held at a location in squalid conditions and forced to carry out work for little or no payment," he said.

“A warrant was executed at a location in Wareham and the four individuals were removed, safeguarded and offered support by relevant agencies.”