Dec 4, 2015

Maoist cult leader guilty of rape and child cruelty

Robert Booth
The Guardian
December 4, 2015

The Maoist cult leader Aravindan Balakrishnan has been convicted of four charges of rape of members of his sect, child cruelty and false imprisonment of his daughter.

The 75-year old, who led a secretive commune in south London from 1975 to 2013 after emigrating from Singapore, was also convicted of six charges of indecent assault and two charges of assault.

Judge Deborah Taylor told Balakrishnan at Southwark crown court: “You should expect a substantial custodial sentence.” She ordered a psychiatric report before sentencing on 29 January 2016.

Josephine Herivel, one of two women who left the commune with Balakrishnan’s daughter in 2013, stood up and said: “You are sending an innocent man to prison. Shame on you.”

The verdicts follow a two-year police investigation into a case which Scotland Yard detectives described as unique.

Balakrishnan’s daughter, who cannot be named, spent her entire life until the age of 30 effectively imprisoned in the commune, ruled over by her father, who insisted on being called Comrade Bala and threatened that “everybody who leaves dies”. She escaped in October 2013 and told police she was regularly beaten by Balakrishnan, who taught her to believe he was God. He lied to her, claiming her father was a dead freedom fighter and that her mother died in childbirth. In fact, her mother was inside the commune with her; she died in 1997 after falling from a window.

Balakrishnan’s daughter spoke to her support worker, Yvonne Hall, by phone after the verdict and told her: “I am overwhelmed with relief. I believe justice has been done and I am happy with the result but at the end of the day he is still my dad.”

Before the verdicts, she described being imprisoned in the cult. There was “always a fear of being bullied, a fear of violence and a fear of being powerless and degraded”. She had been “like a caged bird with clipped wings” and said: “I couldn’t bear to live like that any more.”

Balakrishnan’s daughter escaped with two other women from a house in Peckford Place, Brixton, sparking a police investigation during which two more of his victims came forward. A British woman, who is now 64 and said she was in the cult from 1979 to 1989, and a Malaysian woman, who was involved from 1977 to 1992, both alleged that Balakrishnan beat, raped and sexually assaulted them.

DCS Tom Manson, of the Metropolitan police’s organised crime command, praised the courage of the victims for testifying despite the “torment and torture” they had endured and, in the case of Balakrishnan’s daughter, “the stealing of her childhood”.

Balakrishnan set up the Workers’ Institute of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought at 140 Acre Lane, Brixton, in 1975. He turned it into a secretive cult in which he led a group of about 10 women in what he believed was preparation for China to take over the world and create “an international dictatorship of the proletariat”.

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