Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland slave's court outburst in defence of evil rapist cult leader as he is found guilty

By Deborah McAleese

A Belfast woman held as a slave in a Maoist commune for 30 years shouted out in defence of her captor as he was jailed yesterday.

Josephine Herivel, a former Methodist College pupil and child musical prodigy, became distressed as cult leader Aravindan Balakrishnan (75) was found guilty of a string of sex assaults.

Balakrishnan used violence, fear and sexual degradation to control women he held captive in a secretive commune in south London from 1975 to 2013.

He was convicted yesterday at Southwark Crown Court of child cruelty and falsely imprisoning his daughter.

The pensioner, originally from Singapore, was also found guilty of four charges of raping members of his sect, six charges of indecent assault and two charges of assault.

Ms Herivel, who was one of three women rescued from a flat in south London in 2013 during a human trafficking police operation, attended court yesterday to show her support for Balakrishnan.

Upon his conviction she stood up and declared: "You are sending an innocent man to prison. Shame on you."

Police and psychologists believe that 59-year-old Ms Herivel is suffering from Stockholm syndrome - a condition in which hostages express empathy and sympathy towards their captors.

However, in an exclusive interview with the Belfast Telegraph in October, Ms Herivel insisted she remained with Blakrishnan voluntarily.

"I didn't need rescued. I could have left at any time, but I didn't want to. The State has split our family up. People need to know the truth," she told this paper.

During the trial, which began last month, the court heard that Balakrishnan had carried out a "brutal" campaign of violence.

The jury was told that he had brainwashed his followers into thinking he had supernatural powers.

Scotland Yard detectives launched an investigation into Balakrishnan after Ms Herivel helped his daughter and another woman escape from the commune in 2013.

His daughter, who cannot be named, spent her entire life until the age of 30 effectively imprisoned in the commune, ruled over by her father, who insisted on being called Comrade Bala and threatened that "everybody who leaves dies".

She escaped in October 2013 and told police she was regularly beaten by Balakrishnan, who taught her to believe he was God.

He lied to her, claiming her father was a dead freedom fighter and that her mother died in childbirth. In fact, her mother was inside the commune with her until she died in 1997 after falling from a window.

A British woman, who is now 64 and said she was inside the cult from 1979 to 1989, and a Malaysian woman, who was involved from 1977 to 1992, both said Balakrishnan beat, raped and sexually assaulted them.

Judge Deborah Taylor warned Balakrishnan upon conviction: "You should expect a substantial custodial sentence."

She ordered a psychiatric report before sentencing at the end of next month.

Balakrishnan established the Workers' Institute of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought at 140 Acre Lane, Brixton, in 1975 and turned it into a secretive cult in which he led a small group of about 10 women in what he believed was preparation for China to take over the world and create "an international dictatorship of the proletariat".

Ms Herivel met Balakrishnan in the 1970s 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.

In October 2013 she made a secret phone call to the Freedom Charity and claimed that she had been held against her will for decades. The charity contacted the police and a specialist human trafficking unit removed Ms Herivel and two other women from the house.

Belfast Telegraph

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