Belfast Telegraph

Ulster 'slave' Josephine Herivel will need therapy for a long time: expert

By Adrian Rutherford

A Belfast woman allegedly held as a slave in a Maoist commune for 30 years is likely to need intensive and long-term therapy, a psychologist has said.

Josephine Herivel, a former Methodist College pupil, was one of three women who were rescued from a flat in south London.

Married couple Aravindan Balakrishnan and his wife Chanda – said to be leaders of an extremist Maoist cult – have been arrested on suspicion of being involved in forced labour and slavery, and immigration offences.

The women have been taken into the care of the police and specially trained charity workers.

Last night, it emerged that Ms Herivel's two north London sisters have not spoken to her or the police since she left the flat.

"We haven't talked to anybody yet," said Mary Herivel.

Nor did she want to discuss her sister. "I think it's up to Josie to talk to anybody if she wants to," she said.

Retired judge Julian Hall, who was a neighbour of Josephine's parents for a decade in Oxford, said the couple had never discussed their third daughter, who was written out of their wills. "We used to see their other two daughters, they would come down for Christmas or parties, the usual family get-togethers," he said. "But there was never any sign of a third daughter, no mention, nothing."

Dr Andrew Mohanraj, a Malaysian-born mental health expert, said victims of slavery generally suffer complex post-traumatic stress disorders. He said religion or politics had been used before as a means to trap victims.

"It is a real challenge to treat victims of such slavery because more often than not they would suffer from a complex type of post-traumatic stress disorder, having being subjected to totalitarian control over a prolonged period of time," he said. "Such a victim may need intensive and long-term psychotherapy in addition to psychotropic medications.

"During the period of therapy she may remember and relive traumatic experiences associated with the slavery, she may avoid situations that remind her of it and may appear to be overtly anxious and alert."

Dr Mohanraj said modern slavery was still rampant. "Slavery is the most primitive form of display of power. While modern slavery is associated with violence, blackmail or threats, using religion or politics can also be a tool."


Josephine Herivel (57) was born in Belfast and educated at Methodist College. The talented musician was raised in south Belfast before moving to England as an adult. Josephine, who is one of three daughters, became estranged from her family and became involved with what is described as an extreme Maoist cult. She and two other women escaped the house they were living in after 30 years of enslavement when she decided to alert the authorities last month.

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