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Northern Ireland woman's outburst as Maoist cult leader found guilty of sexual abuse and false imprisonment

Aravindan Balakrishnan known as Comrade Bala, carried out a "brutal" campaign of violence" against the women over several decades.

Published 04/12/2015

Josephine Herivel was born in Belfast and educated at Methodist College
Josephine Herivel was born in Belfast and educated at Methodist College
Aravindan Balakrishnan was found guilty of a string of charges

A Northern Ireland woman has made a dramatic courtroom outburst proclaiming the innocence of a Maoist cult leader as he was found guilty of sexually assaulting two of his followers and imprisoning his own daughter for 30 years.

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

The 75-year-old 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 home for three decades.

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Maoist cult leader Aravindan Balakrishnan guilty of sex abuse charges  

Balakrishnan, of Enfield, north London, was found guilty of six counts of indecent assault and four counts of rape after a trial at London's Southwark Crown Court.

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.

As the guilty verdicts were read out, Josephine Herivel, one of his former followers, shouted across the courtroom.

She said: "You are sending an innocent man to prison. Shame on you."

Josephine was born in Belfast and educated at Methodist College.

The talented musician was raised in south Belfast before moving to England as an adult where she became estranged from her family.

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.

After the hearing, Detective Sergeant Paul Wiggett, the investigating officer, said it was a "completely unique" case.

And he said Comrade Bala's daughter was so terrorised by her father she "genuinely believed the day she left the house she was going to explode - that her life would come to an end".

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


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 and 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.

He convinced them he could control people's minds and would "scrub them clean of the bourgeois culture and lifestyle".

One of the women, Sian Davies - who was the mother of his daughter - suffered fatal injuries when she fell from a window at the cult's home on Christmas Eve in 1996.

The aftermath of the horrifying incident was witnessed by the 13 year-old girl, who was unaware at the time that "Comrade Sian" was her mother.

Giving harrowing evidence at the trial, his daughter told how she was bullied and beaten over 30 years for minor transgressions such as singing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.

She found comfort and courage in the stories of Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings - the only books she was allowed to read.

Police said Balakrishnan's victims endured years of "torment and torture".

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