The extraordinary story of a strange cult, which came to light in 2013 when news broke about three women emerging from a small flat in south London after decades in captivity.
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This programme contains some scenes which some viewers may find upsetting
Three women who claim they have been held slaves in a home in London
for at least 30 years have been rescued by the police.
They are described as a 69-year-old Malaysian woman,
a 57-year-old Irish...
A 69-year-old from Malaysia,
a 57-year-old from Ireland,
and a 30-year old British woman were all rescued.
All three women were highly traumatised
and were taken to a place of safety, where they remain.
We have seen some cases where people have been held for up to ten years,
but we've never seen anything of this magnitude before.
It's, you know, it's kind of impossible to...
believe that something like that could happen.
Well, I didn't know nothing about until I read in the papers that
he was, like, keeping them as slaves or brainwashing them or what.
You know, but I didn't know nothing about it.
When I first heard this strange and intriguing story,
I wanted to discover how this could have happened right under our noses
in the heart of London.
It's only now,
three years after the women emerged from captivity, that I've been able
to piece together a full account of this extraordinary story.
He rules the world.
And...he's our leader and teacher and we just have to obey him,
otherwise we will die.
The first contact with the women was made by a charity
who rescued them from a flat in Brixton in south London.
We got there about 11:05
because there was a window of opportunity
when people weren't in the house.
Sure enough, these women all came out at exactly 11:15 sharp.
Coming up in the car,
somebody wanted to know why
the cars coming towards us had white lights...
-That was Aisha.
-..and the cars in front of us had red lights
Do you want to know why that was?
In the immediate aftermath,
none of the agencies involved knew what they were dealing with,
so the women were spirited away to Leeds
where they could be protected from the press and the public.
Yvonne Hall and Gerard Stocks run an organisation helping people
who've been trafficked and enslaved.
They took the three women under their own roof,
and were the first to realise the full extent of what had taken place.
The 69-year-old Malaysian woman, seen here on the left, is Aisha.
The 57-year-old Irish woman on the right is Josie,
and the 30-year-old is Katy.
When she first came, yes, she was 30 years old in the way we measure age,
but she wasn't. She was much probably nearer to ten
or 11 or something like that. Again, I'm not a psychologist,
but I think that would be accurate from what other people...
I would even go even further.
I would say she was ten or 11 in her ability to communicate verbally,
but in her ability to actually do practical daily tasks,
I would probably drop it back down to maybe six/seven.
It became clear that Katy had been born in captivity
and had never known any other life.
She had never been to school and had only rarely left the house.
After much delicate discussion,
Katy finally agreed to an interview.
Did you ever go to the dentist or the doctor?
No, not a lot.
And why was...
Why was that?
I guess it...
I guess he didn't want anybody to know of my existence,
that was part of it,
but he also used to say that, used to say,
"NHS means 'Never Helps Self.'"
So we should...if we get ill,
we have to focus on him, then we will get better as if by magic.
BBC NEWS OPENING THEME
Good evening and welcome to the BBC's News At Six.
The couple suspected of holding three women as slaves
for more than 30 years have been named as Aravindan Balakrishnan
and his wife, Chanda. The BBC understands that both
were leading figures in a far left Communist faction
based on Brixton in South London in the 1970s.
Up in Leeds, the women began to talk about life in what they termed
They referred to Balakrishnan as Comrade Bala, or AB,
and revealed that he had had control over every aspect of their lives.
He had threatened and terrified them,
claiming to have an invisible, all-powerful machine
at his disposal, which he called Jackie.
Tell me about Jackie. What does Jackie stand for?
Jehovah, Allah, Christ, Krishna and Immortal Easwaran.
And what was Jackie?
His...Bala's mind control machine...
..who controls everything in nature and everything in the world.
And what would he say that Jackie would do to you
if you did the wrong thing or stood up to him or...?
Or cause you terrible harm.
Jackie came up a lot, with all three people, and even now,
I would suggest that two of the three absolutely are definitely very
scared of Jackie, that Jackie's going to take revenge at some point.
Are they leaflets about Comrade Bala, yeah?
Despite having voluntarily left the collective,
Josie Herivel has spent the last three years on an one-woman mission
to clear Balakrishnan's name.
Thank you very much.
Are you and others also fighting?
Are you part of a campaign with other people as well?
Absolutely. We are in solidarity with all the people
who are suffering under the British state, you know,
US-led British state.
It is a slave of America, Britain is a slave of America.
-And how is Comrade Bala?
-No, I'm not being interviewed, OK?
-I don't want to be interviewed.
She declined to take part in this film,
declaring the BBC a tool of the British fascist state.
In the one interview she gave to Channel 4 News in 2015,
she gave HER view of Jackie.
What I understand about it is it's a...
machine, you know.
Electronic machine which helps people to do good, you know.
But he has talked about people dying as a result of that machine.
-Do you believe that?
I do, yes.
That he had the power to make somebody die?
With Jackie's help, Balakrishnan controlled the world
from inside the flat.
He took credit for all global events
including wars and natural disasters.
Everything that happened outside, like earthquakes and hurricanes,
he claimed was a consequence of a lack of discipline
or misbehaviour by his followers inside.
The Space Shuttle Challenger,
it was meant to have blown up when he said that
people were challenging him in the house.
And the shape was like a Y,
when the shuttle blew up, it was like a Y,
so he used to say it is because people are vying with him,
so there's a Y there like that in the sky.
The Collective lived at numerous addresses in south London
over the 40 years of its existence.
At one address, a pizza delivery boy rang their bell by mistake.
So Bala said that this was the fascist state trying to provoke him.
By bringing the pizza?
Yes, by bringing the pizza and disturbing him
and disturbing what he was doing.
So that then the same day there was an earthquake in Kobe in Japan.
Which meant... Kobe means "God's door", that's what he said.
So he said, when there was a knock on God's door...
..sounds crazy but, yes.
Go on, finish that thought. So when there was a knock on God's door...
Then there was this huge earthquake in Kobe to punish the fascist state
for the fact that the pizza delivery man came to God's door.
When I was asking her about some of the strange theories...
-She would have laughed, she would have laughed.
Yeah, she would have done. It's not cos she thinks it's funny,
it's because she's really embarrassed or really pressured.
And it's a really important thing to know,
-if you're asking her questions.
-It is, isn't it, really?
There's a lot of people will see the laugh and think,
"Oh," you know, "she thinks it's funny,"
whereas really she is in distress at that point.
Using Jackie as his tool, what was his plan?
To become the ruler of the world?
Yes, or he used to say to become the overt ruler of the world.
He used to say he was already the ruler of the world
but then it has to become overt, that's what he used to say.
So he was the COVERT ruler of the world at this point?
-Inside the flat?
-And he was going to become the overt ruler?
And how was that going to happen? What was going to happen
that suddenly would mean that the whole world would obey him?
He never exactly said.
-He was going to take over the universe after the world,
and to see if she could eventually take over the world,
I believe the country that were mentioned were Brazil.
She were going to get Brazil as a starter,
to see if she could control that OK. So... I know.
So she was being primed for ruler of Brazil?
Why Brazil, I've absolutely no idea.
Does she know... Had she been... Does she know much about Brazil?
-I don't know.
-I don't think so.
MUSIC: Together We Are Beautiful by Fern Kinney
# He walked into my life
# And now he's taking over
# And it's beautiful
# Yes, it's beautiful... #
It all began in 1976
when Balakrishnan founded his Maoist Collective.
The Workers' Institute of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought
was on Acre Lane in Brixton in South London.
# I think we're beautiful...#
His group included his Tanzanian wife, Chanda,
her disabled sister and about 15 core followers,
most of whom, like him, were students from Asia.
One of them, Aisha Wahab, has never spoken to the media before.
She had come from Malaysia at the age of 24
to study quantity surveying.
I was really inspired by him, you know.
And I thought he...
he was great, you know, to have...
..been able to clarify our minds
as to what to do with our lives, really.
Were you happy living in The Collective, Aisha?
Yes, I thought every...
..day was very interesting.
I was never, ever bored.
There is always something new to learn,
there's something new to do.
I mean, everything was...
I just can't imagine I would have...
..had a better life than that.
Also in the group were two middle-class British women -
Josie, who was studying music when she met Balakrishnan,
and Sian Davies,
a postgraduate student at the London School of Economics.
I was particularly intrigued by Sian's story.
How did you know Sian?
I was at school with her.
-And what school was it?
-It was Cheltenham Ladies College.
She was academic. I think she was quite profoundly academic
in a funny way. It wasn't necessarily the type of academia
that passed exams at a very high level at that stage,
but she was a deep thinker.
-The Labour Party, the Tory Party,
and the Liberals are all enemies of the working class...
We used to see them down in the marketplace.
We used to have our paper sales there and other groups did as well.
It was a bit of a crowded market.
And these guys would turn up.
They didn't have a paper to sell but they used to hand out leaflets
and we used to collect them,
because they were sort of like the comic relief.
And we popped down the pub afterwards for a pint and we'd just
roar with laughter at what the Workers Institute had to say.
"The Communist Party of China and Chairman Mao are on the verge
"of launching a final offensive this year
"to dismantle the old world of colonialism,
"imperialism and a hegemonism and build the new world of socialism."
"And then," in emphasis,
"eternal glory to our great leader and teacher, Chairman Mao Tse-tung.
"Uphold proletarian internationalism."
There we are.
I have one specific memory of her...
..which is probably the last time I saw her.
I can't be sure of that, but I think it probably was,
when she invited me for dinner.
She had her boyfriend, Martin, there.
And she was dressed in...
dressed like a Maoist with all, you know, the blue and the collar,
and the whole dinner we had the Chinese Communist radio playing
and she talked to me...
Well, the way she talked to me I didn't know who she was.
She had become a Communist in the way she was talking to me.
There was nothing of her coming through at all by this stage,
that's what I would say. It was quite scary.
I didn't like being there, it was too late, I had to stay the night.
She didn't want to give me a bed because I wasn't a Communist.
But I got a mattress eventually
and I'm afraid the next morning I just ran away.
One of the things that's interesting is that the Workers Institute
was probably unique among the groups of the far left,
in that they didn't see themselves as being in the business
of creating a revolution. They saw their role
as preparing the population in the "imperialist heartlands",
as they referred to Brixton, London, Britain,
for liberation by the Chinese.
Did they set a date when the Chinese Liberation Army were going to do this?
End of 1977.
And so, very early in 1978,
I had a conversation with several of the members at the time,
expressed my disappointment that I had not been liberated from
capitalist oppression as they had predicted.
And they said that the computer satellites got so good that
actually the Chinese do already control everything in the world,
but they realise that you can't hand people socialism on a plate,
they need to learn to struggle for themselves.
So they have actually taken over everything but they're leaving
the appearance of capitalism in place, so that people
can actually have this experience of liberating themselves.
The idea was that the Chinese Red Army would come
and liberate the UK within a year.
That's what Bala expected.
So you're waiting for that to happen?
Yes, I suppose.
-It didn't happen.
-It didn't happen, did it?
I came across Aravindan Balakrishnan in the mid-70s.
It was my formative years as a police officer,
I was a uniformed police officer in Brixton.
And it really was an age of lots happening.
There was anti-capitalist marches.
The whole environment was like a cauldron of demonstration.
And in amongst all of that,
appeared in these premises here in Acre Lane
what was called the Chairman Mao Memorial Centre.
And this was quite intriguing even for those days,
and I decided to pay them a visit one day.
And I said to Balakrishnan, "I'm going to be watching you.
"And I'll be looking out every time I come by,
"what you're doing in here."
The Workers Institute were raided.
That was very, very rare. We were all surprised,
considering these guys had no presence anywhere
and were only just like a nuisance to the authorities,
of a non-political nature.
We, the police, got a warrant, and it's very telling
we got that warrant under the misuse of drugs act because, you know,
our belief was that these people were on some form of drugs,
and the place was raided by police and no drugs were found,
and it was boarded up and closed down.
And while their view is going to be,
"Yes, this is the capitalist state closing us down",
well, I'm sorry, sometimes it needs a hard hand.
Well, we called it a trumped-up charge.
You see, the charge was about
Having and holding drugs and consuming drugs as well.
So none of us even smoked cigarettes,
so we don't know anything about drugs.
This was seen as persecution and as I understand it,
that's when Balakrishnan then withdrew
into a much more almost a hermetic kind of environment
with just the very, very small group of mostly female acolytes.
People would say every so often,
"Whatever happened to The Workers Institute?"
Cos they'd suddenly disappeared,
cos they'd always be there on the corner at Brixton.
And then they suddenly disappeared.
And now we know what happened, they went underground,
or what was left of them.
By 1980, The Collective was living in hiding
and consisted of Balakrishnan, his wife and her sister,
and seven other women, including Sian, Josie and Aisha.
# I wanna be immortal
# Like a God in the sky... #
Exploiting their isolation from the world,
Balakrishnan indoctrinated them with increasingly strange ideas.
Was it your understanding that he was immortal?
Well, he did say that,
and he did repeat it again and again.
he also showed how...
it was possible for him to be immortal.
How did he show that?
..you know, different things.
For example, he never believes in going to the dentist
because he say we should let the teeth drop naturally.
'And then by the time you're 100 years, the teeth will re-grow.'
Hi, I'm Dr Hare. Pleased to meet you. Would you like to have a seat?
And then you have another set of teeth
and then when those drop, you re-grow again.
I just want to have a talk with you about your teeth.
You see, you've lost quite a number of teeth, over the years.
We lost teeth, we wait until the tooth has grown again.
-Until the tooth grows on its own?
Yes. It will grow on its own when we are 100 or over years.
-It will grow back on its own?
-Have you ever heard of that?
-Have you ever heard of teeth growing back?
Well, I've heard of it.
It does happen, but I don't know if I'm going to be even 100 years old.
-you see sometimes it's better to keep what you have...
..rather than wait for...
No, no, I don't lose my teeth on purpose.
No, no, I know.
What I was told is that let the teeth fall by itself,
and that it will grow up again.
Who said this to you?
-Somebody I know.
-Somebody you know. Right.
I suppose, again, you know, from the outside,
it does sound like you were brainwashed.
What's your response to that, Aisha?
I think a question of brainwashed, I quite agree.
I think the line that we were given
is that we do need to be...
Our brains did need to be washed.
Because it was,
you know it was...
..dirty, you know, mucky or whatever.
Had to be washed of all ideas.
When you bring...want to build a new world
you can't bring the old, you know, into it.
So we had to chip away the old
and in place you can't leave it blank,
you have to fill the void.
Balakrishnan's socialist programme took a new and sinister direction.
He began an experiment which he called Project Prem.
When Katy was born, did you know who the father of the baby was?
I did ask Sian.
I said, because at first when she was pregnant
we didn't know she was pregnant. Well, I didn't, anyway.
So I said, "Sian," you know, "are you pregnant?"
Because her tummy was going bigger.
She said, "No, it's not."
I said, "Why is your body like this?"
So she said, you know, "Some people do have it like this.
"That's gas in the body and, you know, it gets bigger and bigger."
So that's it. And when Katy was born I was really shocked.
Do you think Sian believed that?
Did she know she was pregnant?
Maybe she didn't, I don't know.
Maybe she didn't either, you know.
So that must have been a real surprise.
-So she had a big tummy for whatever strange reason,
-and then suddenly a baby arrived.
-That's right, yes.
I think he used to say that I was brought out of electronic warfare.
His mind control machine, Jackie, was meant to have...
..got Sian pregnant I suppose.
Tell me what name you were given at birth, Katy.
The first name, Prem, is in ancient language, it is meant to mean love,
and the second name is,
I think it is from Swahili, it means revolution.
So it meant love revolution,
I hated that.
-Because your name was actually an instruction.
-It was like "You must love revolution"?
And he thought that when he rules the world that I'm meant to be like
a soldier for him or his mouthpiece.
Project Prem was an experiment in child-rearing,
intended to eliminate the nuclear family.
Comrade Prem, as Katy was known,
was dressed in genderless clothing,
was never told who her parents were
and was raised collectively by the group.
-It is a new way of looking after a baby, it is not done before.
I'm so used to babies being held and cuddled
and carried and things like that.
We were discouraged from doing those things because...
..I wasn't really
clear exactly what
the correct lines were, but
it meant to, um...
..you see, the baby meant to be solid
without any encumbrances from anywhere else, you see.
So you just meant to stand by him...herself.
I suppose that was the idea, you know,
that when you hold somebody or caress somebody
there's a bonding going on, you know,
there's a bond between baby and mother.
But that wasn't that encouraged in Katy.
He was the only one who was meant to cuddle me
and no-one else was meant to, because
if I was to cuddle other people,
he used to say that that's being,
like being a lesbian to cuddle other women.
When Katy was born there were plenty of things I had to question...
..and this was one of them,
about treatment of Katy, disciplining of her.
And there was a discipline on me as well.
There was once when Katy wet herself
and she was only four and...
you know, she was denounced
and I was denounced as well for letting her wet her...
And I was so angry about it, I really felt
like running out the house at that time, but I didn't.
I tried hard not to because
then I could see that if I had gone out, I had nobody outside.
I'd lost contact with my family.
I had no money, I had no job...
..and I might have been deported.
They were strange.
If you see them on the street, even shopping, they never say hello.
They just go straight in, out. Yeah.
If I'm in the garden, they're upstairs,
if they see anyone out, if you look up,
they close the curtain so you don't actually see who's looking.
What did you think, they were unusual neighbours?
I just thought were refugees that lived there.
I thought they were hiding from somebody, never speak.
But one looked like, she looked like English.
But the others looked like Chinese or Filipino, whatever.
But one, she's tall and the rest short.
The garden was overgrown, it must have been three/four foot
all the time since them people left. And it was the same with
the front of the house, he would never cut anything.
He would always tie the stuff back just enough to get a wheelchair
in and out, and the whole garden was covered in weeds.
Curtains were never opened at any time at all, front or back of house.
The only time you'd see them was sometimes at the back when
the little girl would turn round and
pop the head up, pop back down again.
So is it disturbing to you, Peter,
to think that there was a child being held captive next door?
I mean, as I'm talking to yourself now,
it's actually bringing a lump to the throat.
What aspect of it is upsetting for you, Peter?
It's just the thought of what that child has gone through,
at the time I just didn't do anything about it.
I mean, I'm so sorry that I didn't.
Again, I didn't know what was happening but if I did,
I definitely would have done something about it.
-One night, 1996,
there was screaming in the middle of the night, and subsequently
I learned that Sian had tried to stab herself with a knife.
on the early morning of Christmas Eve,
again there was screaming and shouting in the middle of the night
so I went downstairs with Aisha,
who I was sleeping with and found...
Sian was lying on the floor and she had been tied up.
Her hands and legs were tied and she was gagged.
And she had this piece of cloth in her mouth.
I don't know if it was a sock or something, I don't know.
And Oh and Josie were both holding her down on the floor
and they had tied her up
and Bala and Chanda were both shouting at her.
She had tried to run out, that's why she was tied up.
So you think she was trying to leave, or trying to escape?
Yeah, she was trying to escape.
And then because she couldn't escape that way, that's why she...
she went out through the window, thinking she could escape that way.
She had lost her mind by that time.
AB said that,
you know, that she fell.
He started from the beginning to say that she fell,
you know, because of the nature of the bathroom.
So I just stuck to that.
Having fallen from the bathroom window,
Sian was taken to hospital where she fell into a coma
and died seven months later.
There was an inquest after Sian's death
and at that inquest you were asked whether she had any children.
-And you said no.
Why was that your response?
Because AB said to do so.
Because we definitely didn't want Katy to be taken away
and then live a life as of old, you know.
And not participate to build a new...society.
At the time of the inquest,
a journalist visited The Collective and had an exchange on the doorstep
with Josie, Aisha, and a third woman,
Oh Kareng, who was also from Malaysia.
You have come when you come, when the milkman comes,
you're part of the fascist state.
Could we speak to Comrade Bala, please?
You're part of the fascist state and if you don't stop harassing us
we'll call the open fascist state on you.
Could we speak to Comrade Bala, please?
We don't want to talk to you.
Are you higher than the Coroner's Court?
Everything has to be sorted out there.
I'd just like to ask you very simple questions.
Why won't you speak to us?
You are showing that you're a part of the fascist state.
Josephine, why won't you speak to us, please?
You are showing us that. We don't want to talk to you.
Please. Could we speak to Comrade Bala, please?
We don't want to talk to you.
Sian died when Katy was only 14.
After she died, did life get better or worse for you?
Life got better for me in a funny way.
I mean, because she was
one of the worst,
So it was such a relief with her not there.
Because his sort of worst kind of enforcer had gone?
Yes, his worse enforcer had gone, yes.
Life may have improved
but the unbearable tyranny of Project Prem continued.
He used to say that everything would go against me if I had
..possibly the, like the light shouldn't work
or the tap shouldn't work
because everything is controlled by him,
by Jackie, his mind control machine.
I went to the bathroom and turned the tap on,
it shouldn't work because I had done wrong.
But then when I went to the bathroom and the tap did work
I thought, "Oh, the tap, you're on my side, thank you,"
and I kissed the tap
and hugged the toilet when the flush worked.
I used to look forward to the clocks changing,
when they used to go forward in March or go backwards in October,
because that made things a bit different.
Get darker or lighter in the evenings.
In 2004, Comrade Oh,
who had been with Balakrishnan since the '70s
had an accident in the kitchen.
I think she banged her head...
..and she collapsed
and she was shouting, "Call the doctor."
Bala and Chanda kept harassing her as she was collapsing
and she was ill and kept saying,
talking, talking, talking to her and trying to force to answer questions,
and she couldn't answer because she was,
she was dying, really, and then they started saying to her,
"Stop throwing a tantrum.
"Nobody bangs their head and refuses to talk," and things like that,
but she was actually...
to talk because she was...
She had a stroke.
And then the next day she died.
By now, two comrades had died
and three other women who had been with the group since the 1970s
had chosen to leave.
The Collective had dwindled to just six.
Balakrishnan, his wife, Chanda,
her sister and Katy,
and only two remaining followers, Josie and Aisha.
Josie and Aisha were required to do all the housework.
And The Collective depended financially
on Chanda's Carer's Allowance
and her sister's disability benefit.
Balakrishnan continued to frighten the few remaining members
of the household into staying.
He also used to say that if I defied him,
and just wanted to go out on my own then...
..either there will be...
Lightning will strike me dead or...
..blow up, as it's called, spontaneous human combustion.
-So that you would spontaneously combust?
To me, that idea that someone would spontaneously combust
if they left their flat is complete nonsense,
to me, with my worldview.
Now that you're out and living your own life,
can you see that that sounds like nonsense?
I can see that it can be nonsensical but...
..there is such a thing as spontaneous human combustion.
I've read about it in two or three different places,
so I have an open mind about that.
But as to whether, if he can induce it as and when he wants,
that's the different issue.
# I have a dream
# A song to sing
# To help me cope
# With anything...#
In 2005, at the age of 22,
having never gone outside on her own
and despite believing she could be killed by Jackie,
Katy decided to take the risk and made a break for it.
How did you get out of the house?
By the back door.
And then just carrying lots of bags and things.
And somebody saw me and said,
"Do you need any help with your bags?"
So I said, "No, but I've run away from home."
So they said...
So I said, "What do I do?"
So they said, go to the police station.
So I did.
Tell me what happened when you went into the police station?
So they persuaded...
..me to let them call,
call Bala, so then he came.
Balakrishnan reassured the police that all was well
and took Katy back to The Collective,
where she remained in captivity for another eight years.
AB did say that he liked to discuss things and query things,
why things are done like this or like that.
But he said that if it's gone more than two or three times
then he resorts to, you know, slapping you or, you know...
..on the face, you see. And something...
Sometimes other parts as well.
So, yes, it did happen.
-It did take place.
-So you were beaten?
I was, yes.
Was everybody beaten?
I would have thought so, yes.
These are outrageous allegations, it didn't happen.
-Did you ever see him hit anybody?
-Or humiliate anybody?
-No, I didn't.
-Shout at anybody?
-He didn't do that to me. No.
-You never saw anything like that?
No, I didn't.
Every aspect of life in The Collective was neatly timetabled
and logged in handwritten rotas,
including Balakrishnan's baths and meals.
But over time, the daily schedule evolved.
Previously, only Balakrishnan and his wife had had access
to the television,
but now all the comrades were allowed to watch selected programmes
including the Six O'Clock News.
Would you discuss the news with him?
Would you discuss world events with him?
He would discuss with us.
-So he would talk and you would listen.
It sounds like there wasn't much discussion, actually,
cos discussion means people exchanging ideas.
-But actually he talked and you listened.
-So there's no discussion, in fact.
In her late twenties, Katy, suffering from undiagnosed diabetes,
began to rapidly lose weight.
Terrified that a third member of The Collective might die,
Josie committed to memory a helpline number she had seen on the news.
If you or someone you know is affected by forced marriage,
call the BBC Action Line to hear recorded information.
That's on 0800...
Josie saved money in secret,
smuggled a mobile phone into the flat
and in protracted discussions with the helpline,
put together an escape plan.
It was arranged that Katy and Josie would leave
when Balakrishnan and Chanda were out shopping.
So at 11:15 sharp we left,
Josie and me, with our trolleys.
I had absolutely no intention of leaving, you know.
In fact leaving The Collective for me was really sort of like
breaking my heart, really. But...
I could see that she needed help, so, you know.
She asked me to go with her, so I agreed to do it.
I regret it very much now but at that time...
..I didn't think that...
..it would all blow up like this.
As Katy and Josie made their way to freedom,
Aisha chose to stay in The Collective and was there
when Balakrishnan and Chanda came back.
He was denouncing Katy and Josie...
..and saying that now they have joined the British fascist state
and all those things.
So, it was time for lunch so I said, I'll cook lunch.
So we were just sitting down to have lunch when the police came.
I told the police I'd come with them.
But as I was coming out I saw Chanda there and Bala there,
I went and hugged them.
Whatever I, you know, my misgivings...
..I hugged them anyway.
Was that the last time you saw them, Aisha?
-And that's sad... That memory is very sad for you?
-Is that very sad for you when you remember that?
You look upset about that.
Yes, I am upset.
Because you'd been with them for 40 years or so?
And they were like family, really, to you?
In the course of the police investigation,
all charges against Balakrishnan's wife, Chanda, were dropped,
but new charges were brought against Balakrishnan himself.
It emerged that as well as having had sex with Sian,
Balakrishnan has sexually abused two other women over a period of years,
both of whom had fled The Collective by the early '90s.
The first incident with Ms A
was when she was
called into Mr Balakrishnan's bedroom.
It had never happened before. She didn't know why.
And without warning, he kissed her.
Mr Balakrishnan then began to summon Ms A to his bedroom,
and where the sexual abuse that had begun with a kiss
then became more extreme in nature.
..sexual abuse involving oral sex,
forcing her to perform oral sex upon him
and thereafter of sexual intercourse, rape.
The serious sexual abuse of that type continued...
..and involved in addition...
..the defendant ordering her to lick his anus.
She did as she was ordered,
notwithstanding the distress that plainly she was exhibiting.
One of the women who testified in court
said that when she tried to leave,
it says Woman A, was how she was called in court,
when she tried to leave she said that
Sian and Oh and Josie and you
all held her down whilst Bala beat her.
Is that true?
I don't think I was there.
I mean, I might have been there but not holding her down like that
for AB to beat her.
-Let me put it another way, if that was true, Aisha...
..would you feel able to tell me?
Or would it be too shameful?
I would tell you if I had done it, you know.
I would also be able to tell you why I did it,
but it was against me to do it.
It was against my instinct to do it, you know.
So does that mean she's lying?
She might have...
..she might have thought I was there because all three of them,
you know, if it's Sian, Josie and Oh was holding her down
and I was there she might have thought I was also putting her down.
I doubt there's even three of them,
you don't need three people to...
You know, maybe just Sian was holding her down.
Cos AB doesn't need anybody to...
..to be holding anybody for him to
give you a smack on the face.
A second woman, Woman B,
testified to a similar pattern of sexual abuse.
Balakrishnan was found guilty
and was sentenced to 23 years in prison for crimes
including rape, sexual assault,
child cruelty and the false imprisonment of his daughter.
This is a miscarriage of justice.
It's the state taking their revenge
because we were flourishing in Brixton,
where we had our centre.
Sorry to interrupt,
but that's just nonsense.
I mean, the judge found your husband
and your guru to be a narcissistic, violent rapist.
-He's completely wrong.
-He's completely wrong.
I was living in the same house, he's completely wrong.
I'm sad for Josie but that's her choice,
so I have to respect her choice.
And why are you sad for her? What are you sad about?
I'm sad that she can't...
can't free her mind from the spell of...
..of the cult.
Aisha is now 72, and is living in sheltered housing.
Was any aspect of Bala's political experiment,
was any aspect of that a success, would you say?
I think the issue about...
..loving somebody who is not your own,
I think that is a success.
That every child
has the right to live properly, to be loved, to be cared.
Do you see there's a contradiction there, Aisha,
because Bala's has gone to prison for abusing Katy?
..we now know how Katy felt about it, and in the future,
we know not to do that.
If you can't find a new way then we carry on with the old, I suppose,
but surely the old hasn't worked,
so we still have to find what is better.
Katy is doing her best to leave the indoctrination of her past behind.
She's attending college and has recently moved
out of supported accommodation into a flat of her own.
When she first came, yes, she was 30 years old
in the way that we measure age, but she wasn't.
She was much probably nearer to ten or 11 or something like that.
But we've almost seen this journey through the ages, I think,
and I think she's getting very close to her numerical age now.
-I think she's in her 20s now.
-What about Bala, do you hate him?
Why don't you hate him, Katy? He stole 30 years of your life.
Yes, I know.
I did used to hate him because I had no other...
I just felt completely powerless, so I did used to hate him then.
But life is also very short.
There's no time to be spent on
hatred and anger towards other people.
And also, when Nelson Mandela said that...
..you are still in prison if you hold on to your anger,
hatred and bitterness.
I would like to reconcile with him in the future, yes.
If he wants that,
but you can't clap with one hand, so...
# He walked into my life
# And now he's taking over
# And it's beautiful
# Yes, it's beautiful
# I've gone with better looking guys
# He's gone with prettier looking girls
# But now we're beautiful... #
This documentary by acclaimed director Vanessa Engle tells the extraordinary story of a strange cult, which came to light in 2013 when a sensational news story broke about three women emerging from a small flat in Brixton in south London after decades in captivity. Tracing the group back to its roots in the 1970s, the film describes how its leader Aravindan Balakrishnan, a student of Indian origin, believed in an international communist revolution and created a tiny political sect that followed the teachings of China's Chairman Mao.
The film features exclusive interviews with two of the women who escaped - Aisha Wahab, a 72-year-old Malaysian woman who was part of Balakrishnan's group for 40 years, and Katy Morgan-Davies, Balakrishnan's daughter, who was born and raised in captivity. The film documents how this left-wing collective evolved into a bizarre pseudo-religious cult, where members were controlled, threatened and brainwashed so that they were too terrified to leave.