A charismatic Tamil Maoist cult leader who sexually assaulted a number of his followers and enslaved several others – including his own daughter – at a south London “commune” has been found guilty following a two-year trial.
Aravindan Balakrishnan, 75, known as “Comrade Bala” to his followers, carried out a brutal campaign of “violence and sexual degradation” against a number of women at several properties in south London over a 30-year period beginning the 1970’s.
Balakrishnan had migrated to London from Singapore in the early 1970’s and had run the secretive Maoist commune from 1975 up until 2013, telling his followers that he would take over the world from the “fascists”.
He faces up to life in prison after being convicted of rape, child cruelty and abduction.
Balakrishnan’s 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 also threatened everyone who wanted to leave would be killed.
However, she managed to escape in October 2013. She later accused Balakrishnan of regularly beating her and lying to her that her “freedom fighter” father had died and that her mother had died soon after child birth.
In fact, her mother was inside the commune with her until she died in 1997 after falling from a window.
Following Balakrishnan’s daughter’s escape from the commune in Brixton, south London, several other women came forward to assist police in the investigation.
Detective Tom Manson of the Metropolitan Police organised crime command praised the “courage” of the victims for testifying despite the “torment and torture” they had endured and, in the case of Balakrishnan’s daughter, “the stealing of her childhood”.
During Balakrishnan’s trial, Southwark Crown Court was told that he was a “charismatic” leader who had “brainwashed” his followers.
He kept them as psychological prisoners so they believed he was “all-powerful and all-seeing”, and subjected them to serious abuse, the court was told.
The court heard that in the 1970s Balakrishnan was at the helm of a communist group known as the Workers Institute and based in Acre Lane in Brixton.
Beguiled by his charisma and radical politics, a number of people became his followers and committed to his plan to “overthrow the fascist state” – as he saw Britain.
But as time went by his political influence “waned” and the group dwindled until just six women were left.
They became so “dominated and brainwashed” by him they believed he was God-like and “was all powerful and all-seeing” prosecutors said.
A “Jekyll and Hyde character”, Bala maintained iron-discipline in the collective, it was alleged.
He invented a mystical force called Jackie which he claimed would trigger earthquakes, tornadoes or other deadly natural disasters if anyone went against him, jurors were told.
Victims told the court that Balakrishnan claimed he had “magical powers” and was going to overthrow all governments and even had a “mind control machine” that monitored his followers’ thoughts.
It was in this all-consuming atmosphere of paranoia, fear and violence that he forced two of the women into having sex with him.
While his daughter, who he had with one of his followers Sian Davies, was kept a prisoner in her own home she was beaten, bullied, banned from going to school or playing with friends, and barely left the house.
When she was a child she became “so lonely that she started to talk to the toilets and taps”, jurors heard.
As the girl got older she confided in her diaries about her resentment towards her father.
She wrote: “The day I escape from the prison my father has created will be the day my life really begins.”
Bala preyed on young women, and his Communist commune evolved into a “cult of Bala” where paranoia and fear became order of the day, it is alleged.
His followers were only allowed to read left-wing texts, would spy on each other and report to Bala, who would criticise, beat and sexually abuse them, jurors heard.
He separated the women from their relatives, convincing them they were fascist agents, the court heard.
One of the women he sexually abused became so paranoid about the outside world she thought the Americans were controlling her because she wore a pair of Levis trousers, jurors heard.