Aravindan Balakrishnan alleged to have subjugated more than six women under his control and imprisoned daughter for three decades
The leader of a Maoist “cult” treated female followers as his sex slaves and kept his own daughter captive for 30 years, bullying and brainwashing them into believing they would die if they did not worship him as a god, a court heard.
Aravindan Balakrishnan, 75, used “brutal and calculated” manipulation to subjugate women under his control, repeatedly assaulting some of them and using violence and sexual degradation to bend them to his will, it is alleged.
“Comrade Bala” is said to have convinced his victims he could read their minds, had magical powers and control over the elements.
When one of his followers gave birth to his daughter, the child was deemed “collective property”, was not allowed to be breastfed or cuddled and was never told who her mother was.
The child, called “comrade” by members of a Communist collective founded by the defendant, never went to school, had no contact with other children and barely left the house for 30 years, the jury was told.
She was brainwashed into believing she would “spontaneously combust” if she tried to escape, Southwark Crown Court in London heard.
Opening the case against him, Rosina Cottage QC, prosecuting, told the jury that Mr Balakrishnan seemed to “exult in his power” over the women, who lived a life of “violence, fear, isolation and confinement”.
They believed he could kill them with one touch on a pressure point, and obediently waited for sex with him “by appointment”.
Mr Balakrishnan denies rape, indecent assault, child cruelty and false imprisonment.
How a Maoist collective ‘became a cult’
Sitting in the dock with receding grey hair, anorak and lopsided glasses held together with tape, 75-year-old Aravindan Balakrishnan hardly had the appearance of a god.
Yet for 34 years he demanded – and received – god-like worship from women he recruited to his Maoist cult, it is alleged.
Barely taller than 5ft, he listened through a hearing loop in the dock as Ms Cottage told the jury that in his 30s, Mr Balakrishnan was a charismatic radical with a plan to overthrow the “fascist state”, Southwark Crown Court in London was told.
A disciple of Mao Tse-tung, founding father of Communist China, Mr Balakrishnan attracted a number of people to his Workers’ Institute, founded in the 1970s. Its members only recognised the authority of Mr Balakrishnan and Chairman Mao in establishing the International Dictatorship of the Proletariat.
Students were recruited at demonstrations and money given to “the cause” as the group talked about the rise of the workers, jurors heard.
Photo: EDDIE MULHOLLAND
But his popularity, and donations, gradually waned, until by 1979 only six followers were left, all of them women, including his wife Chandra Pattni, 67.
The group soon became a “cult of Bala”, and paranoia and fear took over, it is alleged.
Ms Cottage said: “There was to be no deviation from communist, Maoist thinking and teaching. No one was allowed to read anything save for prescribed works.”
The members were encouraged to spy on each other and “there was negative criticism and reporting if individuals were not following directives given by Bala”.
The prosecutor added: “Over a period of time Bala said that he had to control people’s minds and scrub them clean of the bourgeois culture and lifestyle.”
He eroded the freedom of his followers and banned them from seeing their relatives, saying they were fascist agents, jurors heard.
Ms Cottage said: “They had all been dominated and brainwashed to the extent that they believed that he was all-powerful and all-seeing.
“If any of them were to go against him they would die and even if they were to have a bad thought about him they would die, fall ill or something bad would befall.”
He also subjected his followers to beatings as others watched, it is alleged. The house was kept locked at all times and passports were confiscated by him.
The women would have to stand around him in a semi circle for up to four hours a day and listen to him lecture, hector and criticise them, it is alleged.
One victim, a nurse who joined the Workers Institute to make friends, was regularly beaten, it is alleged, and when she went to work she did not realise she had bruises because there were no mirrors in the house.
The daughter ‘kept captive for 30 years’
Mr Balakrishnan began a sexual relationship with one of the women in the commune, Sian Davies, who fell pregnant. When her baby bump began to show he “accused her of allowing the bourgeoisie to attack her and of having gas in her stomach”, jurors heard.
When she gave birth in 1983 “the defendant insisted that the baby was the result of electronic warfare”, Ms Cottage said.
Miss Davies was not allowed to breastfeed or cuddle her child, who became “collective property”.
“She was hidden from the outside world, and it kept from her, except as a tool with which to terrify her into subjugation,” the court was told.
She was never sent to school, and had no idea her mother was one of the members of the group until after her mother died in a fall.
She would spend hours at a time staring out of a window at children playing outside, and had few toys and no television. Even when she was a very small child she was called “comrade”.
On one occasion, just before her 10th birthday, she was so desperate to see a different face she went to the airing cupboard and poured water into hoping something would break and someone would be called to come and fix it.
She was so lonely that “she started to talk to the toilet and taps”, the jury was told.
No one outside the sect knew a child was in the house, and she was effectively a prisoner, Ms Cottage told the court. “It doesn’t have to be by lock and key. It doesn’t have to be chained up.
“Over time, the psychological and mental control was so strong over her that she could not exercise any independent choice at all.”
Ms Cottage described the defendant as a “Jekyll and Hyde character.”
“When he was nice he could be very nice, but when he was not he was frightening,” she said.
“She was meant to worship the defendant as God, so everything had to be through him,” said Ms Cottage. “He would say himself that ‘he is nature and nature is him’ so that everything was controlled by him from the sun, the moon, all the winds and the fires.”
The sex slavery begins
Comrade Bala’s followers were banned from having sex, but when his wife spent time in hospital because of a diabetic coma in 1979 he began sexually abusing two women, the court heard.
One victim said they had to wait “as if waiting for an appointment” to be sexually abused by Mr Balakrishnan, with one of the senior members of the cult calling them in when it was their turn.
At one point it is alleged that Mr Balakrishnan was abusing four women, who he told were being “cleansed”.
One woman tried to leave the commune in 1987, by which time it had relocated to Tooting Bec, but the defendant is said to have attacked her, punching her with both hands and saying that the “fascists had got inside her and he was beating it out of her”.
The collective moved 15 times in its 30 year existence to different addresses in south London and one victim victim tried to leave the cult in 1987 or 1988, but felt so disorientated she telephoned the defendant and he brought her back.
Ms Cottage said: “He told them that he knew how to kill them by pressing a pressure point on the neck.” The women “believed he had the power of life and death over them all”.
‘Jackie’ the mind control creature
Mr Balakrishnan convinced his followers to conform by inventing “Jackie” – a type of dangerous, mystical creature who could control minds, jurors heard.
“Jackie” stood for Jehovah, Allah, Christ, Krishna and Immortal Easwaran, and Mr Balakrishnan told one victim he had to beat her “otherwise Jackie would kill or torture her”.
Ms Cottage said: “He said that he had magical powers and was going to overthrow all governments and become leader of the world.
“He said he had a mind-control machine that monitored all their thoughts.”
He also claimed that when the “British fascist state” attacked him it triggered natural disasters such as earthquakes, jurors heard.
The missed opportunities
The jury heard of three occasions on which Mr Balakrishnan or his followers came into contact with the police or other authorities without the alleged cult being discovered.
In 1978 police raided the collective’s base in Acre Lane, Brixton, though the alleged sexual abuse had not started by then.
Mr Balakrishnan’s daughter tried to escape when she was 22, and got to a police station, but was persuaded to call the house and was taken back for another eight years of alleged oppression. She finally got away in October 2013, when she was 30.
Then on Christmas Eve 1996 Miss Davies fell from an upstairs window. Her family were not allowed to know she was in hospital, where she died in August 1997.
Mr Balakrishnan denies a total of 16 counts of rape, indecent assault, cruelty to a person aged under 16 years and false imprisonment over 30 years from January 1980 to October 2013.
The trial continues.
PICTURED: London ‘slaves’ first images revealed as Comrade Bala’s bizarre sect caught on camera
The 73-year-old Aravindan Balakrishnan was filmed by news crews in 1997 at the inquest of Sian Davies, who died in a horror plunge from a window
These are the first pictures of three women allegedly held as ‘slaves’ in a London home for 30 years.
Images of the three women – one called Rosie Davies, 30, Irish national Josephine Herivela, 57, and 69-year-old Malaysian Aishah – emerged last night.
They followed the release of images of slavery suspect Aravindan Balakrishnan,taken after the mystery death of a member of his Maoist sect.
The 73-year-old, known as Comrade Bala, was filmed by news crews in 1997 at the inquest of Sian Davies, who died in a horror plunge from a window.
The three women were allegedly being held at Balakrishnan’s home for 30 years before they were freed last week.
The images emerged as Sian’s cousin Eleri Morgan sensationally claimed the victim could have been Rosie’s mum.
Comrade Bala can be seen smirking at the camera as he strolls casually along the street to the inquest with Josephine and Aishah trailing behind.
His wife Chandra, 67, was also pictured in a wheelchair being pushed by Aishah.
The pair are currently on bail after being arrested over the slave claims.
Retired careers teacher Eleri is now demanding a DNA test to see if Rosie is Sian’s daughter.
The 64-year-old said: “I keep looking at the photos of Sian and of Rosie and there’s a resemblance. A DNA test is the only way to find out one way or the other.
“There was no mention of Sian being a mum at the inquest. We had no idea Rose or Rosie even existed until Monday. If Rosie is her daughter we are a small family and we’d want to know if we had another relative.
“Sian’s mum would have been her gran and would have looked after her.”
Sian, originally from Llanelli, South Wales, was 44 when she died at an address in Herne Hill, South London on Christmas Eve 1996.
The home was “controlled” by Comrade Bala. She broke her neck in the fall from a bathroom window and died in hospital seven months later.
Her mum Ceri and other family members were repeatedly told by the cult she had travelling in India.
Police have reopened the investigation into her death.
Eleri added: “Hopefully some of the women in the house may have been the ones who were there when Sian was with them all those years ago. I feel there is far more information that needs to be found out about her death.
“Having seen photographs of the bathroom window, you fail to see how she could have fallen out of it.
“Seven months had gone since she’d fallen when the police got involved so it was very, very difficult for them to find any evidence. Hopefully there may be issues that will come to light and help to find out how she died.”
At Sian’s inquest, coroner Selena Lynch branded her death a “mystery”.
She said: “I find it difficult to know how she fell out of the window, indeed what she was doing opening the window at that cold time of year.”
Aishah told the hearing at Southwark coroner’s court she had followed Sian upstairs at the home and seen her enter the bathroom. She added: “She went in and I heard her opening the window. Then I heard a woman scream about 10-15 seconds later. I saw the window was open all the way up. I shouted for everyone and they came upstairs.”
Sian was jailed twice in 1977 for assaulting police and non-payment of fines. Fellow sect member Aishah acted as a spokesperson for the group during court appearances in 1978.
She told one hearing: “We are political prisoners. We do not recognise this court which is formed to carry out and be an instrument of a fascist state. Neither do we recognise the jury who are there to carry out the orders of a fascist state.”
Sian and Aishah were two of six members of the group appearing at Inner London crown court following a drugs raid on their Brixton bookshop HQ in 1978.
Although no drugs were found at the premises, five of the six were remanded in custody for nearly six months before being granted a conditional discharge.
They were convicted of obstructing and assaulting police during the raid.
The six refused to recognise the court and stood with clenched fists held high whilst chanting “death to the fascist state” and “long live Chairman Hua”.
The extremist rhetoric and shabby lifestyle is a far cry from Sian’s earlier life where she enjoyed a typical middle-class upbringing, graduating from university with honours and loved riding horses.
Eleri, of Eltham, South East London, said she could never forgive the cult leaders for not letting Ceri say goodbye to Sian. She added: “I believe they did know where I lived.
“I could definitely have seen her. Her mother could have had the chance to have said her goodbyes to her. That to me is totally unforgivable.”