London ‘slavery’: Accused were ‘Maoist extremists’

The couple who allegedly held three women for more than 30 years in London were leaders of an extremist Maoist collective, it has been claimed.
The couple at the centre of the allegations have been linked with a string of addresses.. Picture: GettyThe couple at the centre of the allegations have been linked with a string of addresses.. Picture: Getty
The couple at the centre of the allegations have been linked with a string of addresses.. Picture: Getty

A senior council source confirmed Aravindan Balakrishnan and his wife Chanda were arrested last week by police amid allegations they held three women for more than three decades.

The alleged victims – a 30-year-old Briton, a 57-year-old Irishwoman and a 69-year-old Malaysian – are believed to have suffered years of “physical and mental abuse” at the hands of the pair.

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Inquiries have been carried out in Peckford Place, Brixton, south London, where the three women were found, and police have confirmed there are ongoing inquiries relating to a total of 13 addresses, all in London, linked to the couple.

The couple, aged 73 and 67 and of Indian and Tanzanian origin, are believed to have been known to the police in the 1970s after setting up a communist squat, the Mao Zedong Memorial Centre, in Brixton in 1976.

Balakrishnan, who was known as Comrade Bala, was a former member of the national executive committee of the Communist party of England (Marxist-Leninist) but documents show he was suspended in 1974 for pursuing “conspiratorial and splittist activities”.

Documents also show how police raided the Mao Zedong Memorial Centre in 1978, arresting 14 members of the organisation, including Balakrishnan and wife Chanda, referred to as Comrade Chanda.

A source at Lambeth Council said the couple were believed to have been in their last property for some ten years after moving there from a council home, and concerns had previously been raised with police about the education of the youngest woman.

Scotland Yard would not comment on the claims, but previously said two of the victims met the male suspect through a “shared political ideology”, living with him at an address that was effectively a “collective”.

Metropolitan Police commander Steve Rodhouse said: “The people involved, the nature of that collective and how it operated are all subject to our investigation and we are slowly and painstakingly piecing together more information.

“Somehow that collective came to an end and the women ended up continuing to live with the suspects. How this resulted in the women living in this way for over 30 years is what we are seeking to establish, but we believe emotional and physical abuse has been a feature of all the victims’ lives.”

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The youngest of the three alleged victims is said to have written letters to neighbour Marius Feneck, 26, describing her life as being “like a fly trapped in a spider’s web”. She wrote more than 500 letters to him in seven years, it has been claimed, after becoming infatuated with him.

One letter apparently told of the “unspeakable torment” she suffered behind locked doors and windows, and of how she was terrified that her captors might do something to him. She called her alleged captors “these evil criminals... who dare to call themselves ‘my relatives’”.

The case came to light after the Irishwoman rang a charity last month to say she had been held against her will. Scotland Yard said that part of the agreement on 25 October when the women were removed from the address was that police would not take any action at that stage.

The couple have been released on bail until January.