1. ITV Report

Slavery suspects were leaders of Maoist commune

Police stand guard outside the property in Peckford Place in south London. Photo: Press Association

The political past of a couple accused of holding three women against their will for more than 30 years, has emerged.

ITV News understands Aravindan Balakrishnan - known as Bala - and his wife Chanda were the leaders of a 1970s Maoist commune.

The commune was formed after Balakrishnan was suspended from the Communist Party for pursuing "conspiratorial and splittist activities".

Balakrishnan and his wife Chanda were extreme communists who revered China's Mao Tse Tung, and seem, originally, to have 'recruited' two of their alleged victims through their politics.

Among the details to emerge today were:

  • In 1974, slavery suspect Aravindan Balakrishnan established the Workers' Institute of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought after his suspension from the Communist Party for pursuing "conspiratorial and splittist activities".
  • Bala and his wife Chanda set up a communist squat, the Mao Zedong Memorial Centre, in Acre Lane, Brixton in 1976.
  • The Mao Memorial Centre closed in March 1978.

The alleged victims - a 30-year-old Briton, a 57-year-old Irish woman and a 69-year-old Malaysian - are believed to have suffered years of "physical and mental abuse" at the hands of the couple.

Eleri Morgan's told ITV News her cousin Sian Davies lived with the commune for more than 20 years. In 1997 she mysteriously fell out of a bathroom window of the Brixton house the group were living in and died. Following the fall she was kept in hospital for seven months but her family were not told.

Eleri Morgan's cousin Sian Davies lived in commune led by Aravindan Balakrishnan. Credit: ITV News

Ms Morgan explained meeting Balakrishnan at the inquest into her cousin's death: "I had such a shock. Because I imagined somebody charismatic and there was this toothless old man - well looked old."

Her family told ITV News of the letters Sian wrote from what they believe was a cult, in which she told them she was "looking after the mothers of the world" but when they attempted to visit they were not allowed.

Sian Davies is understood to have lived in the commune for more than 20 years.

I would say they are very manipulative group of people...She was outgoing. We went clubbing in our younger days, enjoyed the good life really, of being in London in the 70s and the next time I actually saw her was in the morgue.

– Eleri Morgan

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

Scotland Yard 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, and all three are now in the care of a specialist non-governmental organisation.

Officers 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 couple, who are of Indian and Tanzanian origin and came to the UK in the 1960s, have now been released on bail until a date in January.

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