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I'll wait for him, says Northern Ireland slave of cult leader jailed for keeping her and others captive in commune

By Deborah McAleese

Published 12/12/2015

Josephine Herivel after Aravindan Balakrishnan was sentenced last week
Josephine Herivel after Aravindan Balakrishnan was sentenced last week
Josephine Herivel talking to news reporters
Josephine’s esteemed father John
Aravindan Balakrishnan

The Northern Ireland woman held as a slave in a Maoist commune for almost 40 years has revealed that she wants to rejoin her captor when he is released from prison.

Belfast woman Josephine Herivel said that until cult leader Aravindan Balakrishnan was freed she intended to spend her time trying to clear his name.

Ms Herivel, the daughter of a Bletchley Park codebreaker and a musical prodigy in her childhood, prompted a major police investigation into the London-based cult when she called an anti-slavery charity asking for help to leave in 2013.

However, after Balakrishnan was convicted last week of false imprisonment, child cruelty and a string of sex assaults, Ms Herivel told the Belfast Telegraph that she regretted contacting the charity that organised her release.

She also revealed that she had spent three "joyful" days with 75-year-old Balakrishnan before he was jailed last Friday, and that he had "forgiven" her for contacting the authorities.

"I was so happy to get the chance to speak to him," said Ms Herivel. "He knows why I did it and is not angry with me.

"I spent three joyful days with him before he was wrongfully convicted. We talked a lot about our experience in the last two years. He is just so shocked by what has happened.

"He will survive prison and I will wait for him. I will rejoin him when he is released. I am just so angry about what has happened. It is a frame-up.

"He is such a good person. He is a genius. And I am going to do all I can to clear his name."

The former Methodist College student met Balakrishnan in the Seventies when she was studying at the Royal College of Music in London. Shortly after that first meeting she dropped out of university and joined the cult.

Rather than pursue her promising musical career, she started working in a launderette and shared her pay with the communist collective.

"My boyfriend at the time was a communist and we used to sell the Morning Star and I became involved in the communist ideology," she said. "I was very depressed at the time. When I met my teacher, he gave me a reason to live. He changed my life."

Ms Herivel contacted anti-slavery charity Freedom in 2013 after becoming concerned for the welfare of Balakrishnan's daughter.

Specialist police intervened and released three women, including Ms Herivel.

Balakrishnan is due to be sentenced next month at London's Southwark Crown Court. "I regret contacting that charity," said the former child prodigy, who has been diagnosed with Stockholm syndrome - a condition in which hostages express empathy and sympathy towards their captors.

"I just wanted to help my teacher's daughter. She wanted to leave and she asked me to help her.

"I did it because I knew that she wouldn't survive in the world alone. She didn't even know how to cross a road because she never wanted to learn how.

"The authorities have diagnosed me with Stockholm syndrome, but I don't have it.

"I have had two years to think about all of this and I am adamant that my teacher is innocent. The police and the State broke up our family.

"They talked about how we never went out alone. That's true, but that was because it was too dangerous for us to go out alone. London is a dangerous place. They also said we were kept in invisible handcuffs. But that is not true.

"The collective is my life. Nobody can destroy our feelings for one another. I will fight to clear my teacher's name and when he is released we will all be together again."

During his trial the court was told that Balakrishnan, who is originally from Singapore, used violence, fear and sexual degradation to control women he held captive.

He was found guilty of raping two of his followers and of falsely imprisoning and mistreating his daughter for more than 30 years while in their south London commune.

He told his followers he had god-like powers and warned them a supernatural force called Jackie would cause natural disasters if he was ever disobeyed.

Belfast Telegraph

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