Revealed: Couple 'who held three women as slaves for 30 years' were leaders of Maoist communist sect based in Brixton bookshop

Mail, UK/November 25, 2013

By Martin Robinson

The couple accused of keeping three women as slaves for more than 30 years ran a communist sect worshipping Chinese leader Mao Zedong, it was revealed today.

The pair, of Indian and Tanzanian origin, are reportedly Aravindan Balakrishnan, 73, and his wife Chanda, 67, whose far-Left activities allegedly led to them being arrested and jailed in the 1970s.

They were held by police last Thursday after three alleged victims - a 30-year-old Briton called Rosie, a 57-year-old Irishwoman and a 69-year-old Malaysian - accused them of years of 'physical and mental abuse' and keeping them in servitude for decades.

It emerged today that the couple had helped organise a Maoist squat in a Brixton bookshop.

It was shut down in 1978 when police raided and arrested 14 people there, including the couple.

It is alleged the suspects, known as Comrade Bala and Comrade Chanda to other members, both later served a prison sentence after a conviction for assaulting a police officer involved in the raid.

Between them they were arrested at least eight times during the 1970s.

Scotland Yard and the secret services are believed to have been aware of the couple's far-Left views.

Their main recruits were like-minded women, who they urged to do 'revolutionary work', and their group held lectures, put on films and printed leaflets encouraging the fall of capitalism in Britain, it is alleged.

Their squat - called the Mao Zedong Memorial Centre - also contained a library, and was set up, according to one member, when 'our beloved Chairman Mao passed away on September 9, 1976'.

'Most were foreign students who seemed to have difficulty adjusting to life in the UK. They refused to recognise the legitimacy of the state and maintained a hostile attitude towards the establishment and towards the rest of the far-Left in Britain at that time.

'Their ideology was profoundly detached from reality. In my article on the organisation I described them as a millenarian sect. Their bookshop in Brixton closed around 1978. I had assumed that they had sunk without trace until this recent news.'

In 1974 Aravindan Balakrishnan was suspended by the Communist Party of England because of his 'conspiratorial activities', after he tried to 'build a clique of people around his line' and 'launched a cowardly attack on the Party', calling it 'fascist', a Party report said.

After their HQ was shut down, Lambeth Council gave them social housing, and they moved to the Herne Hill area of south London.

One of their neighbours said they lived there until around 2003, and said she remembered them because a woman had died after falling from their window.

'I remember three or four of them living there for about five or six years. I remember an Indian man who used to take the women shopping. He always wore a necktie. There was no other man,' the woman told the Telegraph.

'They would never speak. We always saw them coming in and out with shopping but they never spoke.

'One day the police came and told me an older woman living in that house had died falling out of a window at the back. They asked if I had seen anything. I said no and they never got back to me.'

On Saturday Metropolitan police commander Steve Rodhouse said that two of the women had met the male suspect through a 'shared political ideology' and lived together in what he described as 'a collective'.

Sources close to the investigation have said the couple, who arrived in Britain in the 1960s and are now also accused of immigration offences, had kept the women in a 'cult-like' home.

It came as it emerged the couple accused of holding the three women in servitude for more than 30 years have been linked to 13 addresses across London.

Police carried out house-to-house inquiries over the weekend in and around Peckford Place, Brixton, south London, where the three women were found.

The south London house was today boarded up.

Council workers began sealing up the windows and doors of the housing association property.

Council officials at the house declined to explain what would be happening to the property and it's contents.

The number of properties associated with the couple, of Indian and Tanzanian origin who came to the UK in the 1960s, suggests the women may have been moved around London repeatedly over the last three decades.

The youngest of the three alleged victims - Rosie - is said to have written letters to a neighbour, telling of her life as being 'like a fly trapped in a spider's web'.

The woman became infatuated with neighbour Marius Feneck, 26, reportedly writing him more than 500 letters in seven years.

One letter tells of how she suffered 'unspeakable torment' behind locked doors and windows, and of how she was terrified that her captors - 'these evil criminals... who dare to call themselves 'my relatives'' - might do something to him.

Rosie also knitted a jumper for Jesse Paddy, 64, and gave it to him with a note that read 'For my dearest Jesse from Rosie with Love! 2 April 2013.'

He said Rosie was 'nice' and said: 'She always seemed to be happy when I saw her and we'd have a chat, the jumper was a surprise though.'

Mr Paddy, lived on the same Brixton estate said he would visit alleged slave masters Aravindan Balakrishnan and his wife Chanda in their flat.

He said the elderly couple appeared 'natural' and did not come across as 'slavemasters.'

It emerged that the couple on bail were previously arrested in the 1970s, although police have not said why they were detained.

Police have recovered a birth certificate for the 30-year-old woman, who is believed to have lived her entire life in servitude, but no other official documents for her have been found.

The case came to light after the Irish woman rang the Freedom Charity last month to say she had been held against her will.

The Met said that part of the agreement on October 25 when the women were removed from the address was that police would not take any action at that stage.

None of the women was reported missing after being rescued, police said. All three are now in the care of a specialist non-governmental organisation.

Some 37 officers from the Met's human trafficking unit are working on the case, and are sifting throung 2,500 items in 52 bags taken from the mysterious property.

A baby was spotted inside the flat where the Lambeth slaves were held captive, neighbours said today.

Detectives investigating the case - described by Scotland Yard as the worst slavery case in modern history - will probe why a mystery young child was seen at the Brixton address around the time the three women were rescued.

Neighbour Anthony Mizzi, who lives in an adjacent block, said he saw the baby when he called at the home to deliver some post put through his door by mistake.

‘About three weeks ago, I had to go round to the house and deliver some of their mail. The last time I went round, an African lady in her mid-20s answered the door and she had a young baby in her arms,' he said.

His accusation has been handed to the Met, who are set to interview him this week.

Pressure is building on Lambeth Council to fully explain what it knew about the 'slaves' as it was revealed the youngest victim came to the attention of social services 15 years ago.

A senior Lambeth councillor, who did not wish to be named, said her adoptive parents were reported to the police because Rosie, who was then 15, was not going to school.

The local authority is going through its records but it is understood a concerned member of the public contacted them via Scotland Yard when they became sure the then teenager was not attending school.

Police then passed on the information but it is unclear if Lambeth did anything with it.

A councillor said last night: ‘The police passed the complaint to social services but they said they weren’t prepared to take any action.’

Another councillor, told the Independent the council was 'playing catch-up with police investigations'.

'That this family was already known to them is not something that the council has chosen to refute. But something as basic as not followingup on school attendance for such a long period of time invariably asks difficult questions,' they said.

Leader of the Lambeth Liberal Democrats, Ashley Lumsden, said: 'We are extremely concerned at the reports we have seen and are looking to the council to explain its involvement from a housing, educational and social services perspective.

'We want a review conducted promptly and to be published so that we can consider it and so that lessons can be learnt.'

Another senior councillor said Lambeth’s social services, education and housing departments had all had contact with the household.

Last night Theresa May, the Home Secretary, said tackling modern slavery in Britain was a ‘personal priority’.

She said: ‘It is all around us, hidden in plain sight. Something most of us thought consigned to history books, belonging to a different century, is a shameful and shocking presence in modern Britain.’

A spokesman for Lambeth Council said: 'It is vital that the police conduct a thorough investigation into these extremely complex and serious allegations and that the women receive support following their appalling ordeal. We will offer any assistance the police require to ensure there is justice for the women.'

The 'bizarre' Maoist sect that inspired comedy Citizen Smith

The couple accused of keeping three women as slaves for more than 30 years ran a bizarre Communist sect said to have inspired the TV sitcom Citizen Smith.

The south London-based sect's ideology was a Maoist variant of Marxist-Leninism and was set up by Aravindan Balakrishnan who called it the Workers' Institute of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse-Tung Thought.

The institute's weekly journal - South London Workers' Bulletin - proudly proclaimed 'this new development in Britain has taken the British fascist state by storm.'

His new movement was analysed in a 1978 doctoral thesis by a researcher at University College London who described it as 'the clearest case of far-left millenarianism which I have encountered - a tiny Maoist sect with about 25 members located in the Brixton area.

'In 1977 they confidently predicted the world would be liberated from capitalist oppression by the Chinese People's Liberation Army before the end of the year.'

The group came to broader attention when a diarist in The Times newspaper began reprinting some of their material to amuse his readers.

It's believed this exposure led to the party being an influence on the fictional Tooting Popular Front featured in Citizen Smith (right) and starring Robert Lindsay as its self-proclaimed leader Wolfie Smith.

Operating out of its he Mao Zedong Memorial Centre, it was closed down after two years following a police raid in 1978.

Balakrishnan and his wife Chanda were charged with assaulting police and sentenced to six months and three months respectively.

By the time of the Brixton riots in 1981 their organisation had gone underground where it remained for more than 30 years until the slave women were freed.

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