Cult leader guilty of imprisoning daughter for 30 years

Aravindan Balakrishnan was found guilty of six counts of indecent assault and four counts of rape. Picture: PA
Aravindan Balakrishnan was found guilty of six counts of indecent assault and four counts of rape. Picture: PA
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A Maoist cult leader faces the prospect of dying in jail after being found guilty of sexually assaulting two women and imprisoning his own daughter in the commune for 30 years.

Aravindan Balakrishnan, 75, known as Comrade Bala, carried out a “brutal” campaign of violence and “sexual degradation” against the women over several decades.

He brainwashed his followers into thinking he had God-like powers, and invented a supernatural force known as “Jackie” who, he said, could trigger natural disasters if his will was flouted.

After fathering a daughter with one of his acolytes, he kept her a prisoner in their London home for three decades.

Beaten, banned from singing nursery rhymes, going to school or making friends, his daughter described herself as a “shadow woman” who was kept like a “caged bird”.

The woman, who cannot be identified for legal reasons but is being named Fran, yesterday said she was “overwhelmed with relief” after his conviction for imprisoning her, adding: “I believe justice has definitely been done. I am very happy with the result and at the end of the day he is still my dad.”

She fled in 2013 with the help of a charity. She was 30 years old.

She had escaped eight years earlier in 2005, but was sent home by police because it was a bank holiday, the trial at London’s Southwark Crown Court heard.

Describing life inside the commune, she said: “I felt like a caged bird with clipped wings. Like a fly in a spider’s web. Just really helpless and powerless.”

Balakrishnan, of Enfield, north London, was found guilty of six counts of indecent assault and four counts of rape. He was also convicted of two counts of ABH, cruelty to a child under 16, and false imprisonment. He was cleared of one count of ABH and one count of indecent assault.

Grey-haired Balakrishnan looked stone faced as he listened through a hearing loop as the guilty verdicts were read out.

But Josephine Herivel, one of his former followers, shouted across the courtroom floor: “You are sending an innocent man to prison. Shame on you.”

Judge Deborah Taylor said Balakrishnan faces a “substantial custodial sentence”.

The pensioner denied the abuse, and insisted the women vied for his affection and he treated his daughter with compassion. But the court heard he used his charisma and radical politics to prey on women.

The left-winger came to Britain from Singapore in 1963 and enrolled at the London School of Economics – well known during the 1960s for its radical student movement.

By the 1970s he was at the helm of a communist group known as the Workers Institute based in Acre Lane in Brixton, south London.

He gained a number of followers, but as time went by his influence “waned” and the group dwindled to just six women.

Described in court as a “Jekyll and Hyde character”, Balakrishnan turned his Communist commune into a “cult of Bala” where paranoia and fear became the order of the day.

His followers were only allowed to read left-wing texts, spied on each other, and were sexually assaulted and beaten by Balakrishnan.

Balakrishnan was remanded in custody to be sentenced on 29 January.