Saturday 21 April 2018

Cult leader claimed he was Jesus to control followers

Josephine Herivel
Josephine Herivel

Sam Marsden in London

THE leader of the Marxist sect accused of holding three women in domestic slavery in London for more than 30 years controlled his followers by claiming he was Jesus Christ, a former member of the group said.

Aravindan Balakrishnan (73) who was known as Comrade Bala, described himself as a "professional revolutionary" and said that China would invade "fascist" Britain.

In the 1970s he and his wife Chanda (now 67) attracted scores of people to the far-left ideology of their Workers' Institute of Marxism Leninism Mao Zedong Thought, based in Brixton, south London.

Dudley Heslop (59) who attended lectures by Mr Balakrishnan for a year before rejecting his teachings, said he ran his collective along "military" lines.

Mr Helop said: "He would say, 'I am Christ, follow me,' and people would. He was never violent, he was too self-controlled."

Mr Heslop, a community worker, said: "He was approachable and charismatic. His flaw was that he was 100pc revolutionary. If people said he was brainwashing others, he said he was cleaning their brains. His followers were committed to becoming revolutionaries."

It is claimed that Mr Balakrishnan and his wife held three women captive for three decades at several addresses in London.

The authorities were only alerted when Irishwoman Josephine Herivel (57) rang the Freedom Charity after watching a documentary on television.

Two other women, a Malaysian identified as Aisha Wahab (69) and a 30-year-old understood to be Rose Davies, were also freed last month.

The three woman were due to be formally interviewed by police for the first time. Officers have had to wait until trauma experts gave them the go-ahead to take their accounts in person.

Commander Steve Rodhouse said: "We have not yet been able to formally interview the victims in this case so we don't fully understand the nature of the allegations.

He said that there may have been "many and varied offences" against the women, but that their ordeal may not be defined as modern day slavery.

"We need to maintain an open mind on what this particular incident is before we jump to those conclusions and labels," Mr Rodhouse said.

DISAPPEARED

Meanwhile the sister of Aisha Wahab made an emotional plea to be reunited with her.

Kamar Mahtum (73) was overjoyed when she heard that her younger sister had been found.

The retired teacher boarded a flight to London in the hope of finally seeing the sister who disappeared in the early 1970s.

Arriving yesterday, she brought with her a letter begging her sister to "return to the fold" and be a part of her life again.

Irish Independent

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