Indian-born Aravindan Balakrishnan, a Maoist ‘cult leader’ who used mental and physical dominance to control every aspect of three women’s lives has been found guilty of false imprisonment, rape, assault, indecent assault and causing cruelty to a child and sentenced 30 years jail…reports Asian Lite News
Aravindan Balakrishnan, 75, of Latymer Road, Enfield, was the organiser of a political group in the 1970s and described as a “charismatic leader” who drew people to him.
Over time the interest of members of his ‘collective’ – which he named the Workers’ Institute of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought – waned. By the late 1970s very few members remained and those that did were women.
The court heard that these women were so conditioned and incarcerated that they believed Balakrishnan was all powerful and all-seeing. The women had very limited independence and lived lives of fear, violence, isolation and confinement.
Balakrishnan was able to manipulate their minds through this regime of abuse and collective members were encouraged to distance themselves from their families and the outside world.
The three women Balakrishnan was convicted of abusing today, Friday, 4 December, include one woman, now aged 32, who was born into the collective. DNA tests have since proven she is the daughter of Balakrishnan.
His daughter never attended school or saw a doctor in all those years and every aspect of her life was controlled by Balakrishnan. She was not known to the outside world or even to the family of her mother, who died in 1997.
Throughout the police investigation, not one official record, aside from a birth certificate, was found of the defendant’s daughter including bank, benefit or national insurance details. Her every movement was limited and she was humiliated, criticised, beaten and mentally abused over many years.
By order of Balakrishnan, she kept detailed diary entries of her life, recording what she ate, when she went to the toilet, what she had learnt about communism and Balakrishnan’s central role in the world. In other entries she told of isolation, beatings, self-criticism and on very rare occasions being taken out of the house to the shops or launderette.
She was never allowed to meet people her own age and in 30 years never left the house alone, save for one occasion.
In 2005, when she was in her 20s, she ran away from the collective and was helped by a member of the public who directed her to a police station. She told the station reception officer that she had run away from home. She did not mention the violence or abuse. Balakrishnan was contacted and collected her from the station. He promised her she’d had more freedom – this never happened.
As the investigation unfolded, police researched a number of women who were part of the collective from the mid ’70s.
Two further victims, were identified and approached and gave very similar stories, despite not seeing or speaking to each other for more than 25 years. Both women spoke of their sexual, physical and mental abuse over many years and gave statements detailing the torment they suffered at the hands of Balakrishnan. He convinced them of his powers and ensured they were too frightened to leave him. The two women remained at the address for 13 and 14 years respectfully. Both left following years of degrading treatment and were never to return to the collective or indeed, ever speak to its members.
In the years leading up to 2013, whilst living in Peckford Place in Brixton, Balakrishnan’s daughter became very ill. Another woman at the address decided to help her leave so that she could receive medical treatment and escape the abuse she had endured since birth. On 11 October 2013, a call was made to a charity from a mobile phone that had been bought from loose change collected over a period of months. The caller told the charity that a woman was being kept prisoner, being abused and needed urgent medical treatment.
Following a number of conversations, it was arranged the women would leave the address and meet the charity on 25 October 2013, close to Peckford Place. Police also attended on this day and the three women, then aged 30, 57 and 69, were taken to a place of safety to be supported by Met officers, charities and other professionals.
Balakrishnan’s daughter was immediately admitted to hospital and treated for type one diabetes. She has since been diagnosed as also suffering from chronic Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and her evidence to the police took months to obtain due to her extreme vulnerabilities. She was unable to perform ordinary day-to-day tasks or even cross a road unaided. Years of complete isolation from the outside world meant she had no idea how to deal with the practicalities of normal life.
On 21 November 2013, police arrested Balakrishnan at Peckford Place. An associated lock-up was searched and more than 2,000 items seized, including diaries, letters and other written documents. It took the police several months to read through the material but it was the evidence from these writings that clearly demonstrated the inhumane way the women had been kept and treated over several decades.
Balakrishnan was further arrested for sexual offences on 29 July 2014 before being charged on 11 December 2014.
Detective Chief Superintendent Tom Manson, from the Met’s Organised Crime Command, said: “Over 40 hours of carefully conducted interviews, these woman told us about the abuse they endured at the hands of Balakrishnan spanning decades. One victim described feeling suicidal early in her childhood and how the huge sense of isolation she experienced led to her making friends with inanimate objects and developing romantic feelings for anyone who paid her any attention.
“It seems extraordinary that Balakrishnan could command such control over so many people, however all of the victims have told us in great detail that they very much believed his claims of power and greatness and the threats he made to them. They all described feelings of fear and being totally controlled him.
“All of the women have faced huge challenges in adapting to day-to-day life since they left Balakrishnan’s control but with the support of a number of charities and professionals are making exceptional progress and their bravery deserves recognition and praise.
“I hope that Balakrishnan’s conviction today brings them some comfort and perhaps closure. I also hope that his conviction gives the confidence and strength to any other person who may be suffering this type of abuse to come forward and contact the police or a charity, who can help.
“The understanding of these types of issues by the police and other professionals has developed hugely in the last few years and whether the control is physical or mental, there is always someone who is willing to help and listen.”
In extracts from her victim impact statement Balakrishnan’s daughter said: “There are no words to express the pain that Bala and the collective has caused me. I was bullied, tormented, humiliated, isolated and degraded.
“I lived in constant fear and was deprived of a normal life. I missed out on family. I never even knew who my mother was until after she died. My uncle, my grandparents and other family members never even knew I existed…
“I felt angry, sad, lonely, vulnerable and scared and to this day I find it difficult to trust people or get really close to them. I am always waiting for someone to mock me, reject me or be nasty to me…
“I was a non person, no-one knew I existed…I never had the chance to interact with other people except those for whom I could do nothing right, especially as a child and teenager…I was beaten and suffered extreme mental and emotional abuse…I feel uncomfortable talking to more than one person at a time in case people ignore me, isolate me or gang up on me, as used to happen especially when I was a child…
“I missed out on personal relationships. No boyfriends, best friends or work colleagues. I was also deprived as having a family of my own. I had no chance to find a husband or have children….I cannot live independently at present. I have no experience or doing so and lack necessary skills…
“Bala…ruled the collective with fear. Bala talked about his mind control machine called Jackie who could torture and kill people who didn’t follow him…and didn’t agree with being abused…Jackie was a real force of fear in the house. Even now when bad things happen, at the back of my mind I feel that it is because I am a curse to all who know or help me and that anyone who gets close to me will come to harm because I have dared to go against Bala…
“Bala enjoyed playing with my feelings and tormenting me and because of this I find I cannot get excited about anything any more. I don’t believe that anything nice is actually happening. I feel so old and tired and to be frank I’m fed up with life.”