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Saturday 10 December 2016

I regret going to charity about cult leader jailed for abuse - Irish woman

Courts

Maoist Aravindan Balakrishnan
Maoist Aravindan Balakrishnan

The Irish woman who first raised the alarm about Aravindan Balakrishnan's behaviour within a closed communist collective says she regrets her decision and has refused to condemn his actions.

Aravindan Balakrishnan (75) was found guilty of sexually assaulting two women and imprisoning his own daughter in a commune for 30 years.

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

Balakrishnan, of Enfield, north London, was found guilty of six counts of indecent assault and four counts of rape.

Brainwashed

He 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 London home for three decades.

Beaten, banned from singing nursery rhymes, going to school or making friends, his daughter described herself as a "shadow woman" who was kept like a "caged bird".

The woman in her 30s, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, said she was "overwhelmed with relief" after his conviction for imprisoning her, adding: "I believe justice has definitely been done. I am very happy with the result and at the end of the day he is still my dad."

However, Josephine Herivel, the Irishwoman who first raised the alarm about Aravindan Balakrishnan's behaviour has now claimed she was betrayed by the authorities.

Ms Herivel joined the Maoist sect in the 1970s after falling under its leader's spell while studying music in London.

But in 2013 Ms Herivel, the daughter of a Bletchley Park code breaker from Belfast, contacted anti-slavery charity Freedom after becoming concerned for the welfare of Balakrishnan's daughter. Her action resulted in the break-up of the sect. She has now claims she bitterly regrets the downfall of the man she still calls her teacher and leader.

When the verdict was read yesterday, she shouted across the courtroom floor: "You are sending an innocent man to prison. Shame on you."

Ms Herivel said that the authorities misunderstand her.

"They have accused me of suffering from Stockholm syndrome and have sent me to a psychiatrist, but I am not suffering from it. This is psychological terrorism," she said.

Ms Herivel said that she only asked for help because Balakrishnan's daughter came to her.

"She decided she wanted to leave in October 2013. She was not going to be able to make it on her own," Ms Herivel said.

"She confided in me and said 'please can you help me?', but it has basically broken my heart. I left with her but I had no intention of leaving the collective."

"We did not want the police involved. It was a family affair as far as we were concerned.

Help

"I asked the charity to help because I did not want her to end up on the street."

Showing her die-hard loyalty to the cult she joined as a teenager, Ms Herivel claimed it was the authorities rather than Balakrishnan who had mistreated her.

"We were kidnapped by the police and questioned for hours and hours. It was psychological torture," she said. "I know 100pc he is innocent. He has given me my life."

Balakrishnan, originally from Singapore, was also convicted of two counts of ABH, cruelty to a child under 16, and false imprisonment.

The pensioner had denied the abuse, and insisted the women vied for his affection and he treated his daughter with compassion.

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

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