The Cult Next Door


The Cult Next Door

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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Transcript


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This programme contains some scenes which some viewers may find upsetting

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Three women who claim they have been held slaves in a home in London

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for at least 30 years have been rescued by the police.

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They are described as a 69-year-old Malaysian woman,

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a 57-year-old Irish...

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A 69-year-old from Malaysia,

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a 57-year-old from Ireland,

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and a 30-year old British woman were all rescued.

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All three women were highly traumatised

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and were taken to a place of safety, where they remain.

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We have seen some cases where people have been held for up to ten years,

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but we've never seen anything of this magnitude before.

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Thank you.

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It's, you know, it's kind of impossible to...

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believe that something like that could happen.

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Well, I didn't know nothing about until I read in the papers that

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he was, like, keeping them as slaves or brainwashing them or what.

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You know, but I didn't know nothing about it.

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When I first heard this strange and intriguing story,

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I wanted to discover how this could have happened right under our noses

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in the heart of London.

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It's only now,

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three years after the women emerged from captivity, that I've been able

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to piece together a full account of this extraordinary story.

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He's God.

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He rules the world.

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He's immortal.

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And...he's our leader and teacher and we just have to obey him,

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otherwise we will die.

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The first contact with the women was made by a charity

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who rescued them from a flat in Brixton in south London.

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We got there about 11:05

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because there was a window of opportunity

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when people weren't in the house.

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Sure enough, these women all came out at exactly 11:15 sharp.

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Coming up in the car,

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somebody wanted to know why

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the cars coming towards us had white lights...

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-That was Aisha.

-..and the cars in front of us had red lights

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Do you want to know why that was?

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In the immediate aftermath,

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none of the agencies involved knew what they were dealing with,

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so the women were spirited away to Leeds

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where they could be protected from the press and the public.

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Yvonne Hall and Gerard Stocks run an organisation helping people

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who've been trafficked and enslaved.

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They took the three women under their own roof,

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and were the first to realise the full extent of what had taken place.

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The 69-year-old Malaysian woman, seen here on the left, is Aisha.

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The 57-year-old Irish woman on the right is Josie,

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and the 30-year-old is Katy.

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When she first came, yes, she was 30 years old in the way we measure age,

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but she wasn't. She was much probably nearer to ten

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or 11 or something like that. Again, I'm not a psychologist,

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but I think that would be accurate from what other people...

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I would even go even further.

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I would say she was ten or 11 in her ability to communicate verbally,

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but in her ability to actually do practical daily tasks,

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I would probably drop it back down to maybe six/seven.

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It became clear that Katy had been born in captivity

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and had never known any other life.

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She had never been to school and had only rarely left the house.

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After much delicate discussion,

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Katy finally agreed to an interview.

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Did you ever go to the dentist or the doctor?

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No, not a lot.

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And why was...

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Why was that?

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I guess it...

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I guess he didn't want anybody to know of my existence,

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that was part of it,

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but he also used to say that, used to say,

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"NHS means 'Never Helps Self.'"

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So we should...if we get ill,

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we have to focus on him, then we will get better as if by magic.

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BBC NEWS OPENING THEME

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Good evening and welcome to the BBC's News At Six.

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The couple suspected of holding three women as slaves

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for more than 30 years have been named as Aravindan Balakrishnan

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and his wife, Chanda. The BBC understands that both

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were leading figures in a far left Communist faction

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based on Brixton in South London in the 1970s.

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Up in Leeds, the women began to talk about life in what they termed

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The Collective.

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They referred to Balakrishnan as Comrade Bala, or AB,

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and revealed that he had had control over every aspect of their lives.

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He had threatened and terrified them,

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claiming to have an invisible, all-powerful machine

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at his disposal, which he called Jackie.

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Tell me about Jackie. What does Jackie stand for?

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Jehovah, Allah, Christ, Krishna and Immortal Easwaran.

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And what was Jackie?

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His...Bala's mind control machine...

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..who controls everything in nature and everything in the world.

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And what would he say that Jackie would do to you

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if you did the wrong thing or stood up to him or...?

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Kill you.

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Or cause you terrible harm.

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Jackie came up a lot, with all three people, and even now,

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I would suggest that two of the three absolutely are definitely very

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scared of Jackie, that Jackie's going to take revenge at some point.

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Are they leaflets about Comrade Bala, yeah?

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Despite having voluntarily left the collective,

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Josie Herivel has spent the last three years on an one-woman mission

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to clear Balakrishnan's name.

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Thank you very much.

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Are you and others also fighting?

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Are you part of a campaign with other people as well?

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Absolutely. We are in solidarity with all the people

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who are suffering under the British state, you know,

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US-led British state.

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It is a slave of America, Britain is a slave of America.

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-And how is Comrade Bala?

-No, I'm not being interviewed, OK?

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-I don't want to be interviewed.

-OK.

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She declined to take part in this film,

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declaring the BBC a tool of the British fascist state.

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In the one interview she gave to Channel 4 News in 2015,

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she gave HER view of Jackie.

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What I understand about it is it's a...

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machine, you know.

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Electronic machine which helps people to do good, you know.

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But he has talked about people dying as a result of that machine.

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-Yes.

-Do you believe that?

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I do, yes.

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That he had the power to make somebody die?

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Yes.

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With Jackie's help, Balakrishnan controlled the world

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from inside the flat.

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He took credit for all global events

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including wars and natural disasters.

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Everything that happened outside, like earthquakes and hurricanes,

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he claimed was a consequence of a lack of discipline

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or misbehaviour by his followers inside.

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The Space Shuttle Challenger,

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it was meant to have blown up when he said that

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people were challenging him in the house.

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And the shape was like a Y,

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when the shuttle blew up, it was like a Y,

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so he used to say it is because people are vying with him,

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so there's a Y there like that in the sky.

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The Collective lived at numerous addresses in south London

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over the 40 years of its existence.

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At one address, a pizza delivery boy rang their bell by mistake.

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So Bala said that this was the fascist state trying to provoke him.

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By bringing the pizza?

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Yes, by bringing the pizza and disturbing him

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and disturbing what he was doing.

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So that then the same day there was an earthquake in Kobe in Japan.

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Which meant... Kobe means "God's door", that's what he said.

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So he said, when there was a knock on God's door...

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SHE GIGGLES

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..sounds crazy but, yes.

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Go on, finish that thought. So when there was a knock on God's door...

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Then there was this huge earthquake in Kobe to punish the fascist state

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for the fact that the pizza delivery man came to God's door.

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-Bala's door?

-Bala's door.

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When I was asking her about some of the strange theories...

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-She would have laughed, she would have laughed.

-..she laughed.

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Yeah, she would have done. It's not cos she thinks it's funny,

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it's because she's really embarrassed or really pressured.

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And it's a really important thing to know,

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-if you're asking her questions.

-Yeah.

-It is, isn't it, really?

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There's a lot of people will see the laugh and think,

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"Oh," you know, "she thinks it's funny,"

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whereas really she is in distress at that point.

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Using Jackie as his tool, what was his plan?

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To become the ruler of the world?

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Yes, or he used to say to become the overt ruler of the world.

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He used to say he was already the ruler of the world

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but then it has to become overt, that's what he used to say.

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So he was the COVERT ruler of the world at this point?

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-Yes.

-Inside the flat?

-Yeah.

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-And he was going to become the overt ruler?

-Yes.

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And how was that going to happen? What was going to happen

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that suddenly would mean that the whole world would obey him?

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He never exactly said.

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-GERARD STOCK:

-He was going to take over the universe after the world,

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and to see if she could eventually take over the world,

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I believe the country that were mentioned were Brazil.

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She were going to get Brazil as a starter,

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to see if she could control that OK. So... I know.

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So she was being primed for ruler of Brazil?

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-Yes.

-Yes.

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Why Brazil, I've absolutely no idea.

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Does she know... Had she been... Does she know much about Brazil?

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-I don't know.

-I don't think so.

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MUSIC: Together We Are Beautiful by Fern Kinney

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# He walked into my life

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# And now he's taking over

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# And it's beautiful

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# Yes, it's beautiful... #

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It all began in 1976

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when Balakrishnan founded his Maoist Collective.

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The Workers' Institute of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought

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was on Acre Lane in Brixton in South London.

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# I think we're beautiful...#

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His group included his Tanzanian wife, Chanda,

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her disabled sister and about 15 core followers,

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most of whom, like him, were students from Asia.

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One of them, Aisha Wahab, has never spoken to the media before.

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She had come from Malaysia at the age of 24

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to study quantity surveying.

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I was really inspired by him, you know.

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And I thought he...

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he was great, you know, to have...

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..been able to clarify our minds

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as to what to do with our lives, really.

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Were you happy living in The Collective, Aisha?

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Yes, I thought every...

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..day was very interesting.

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I was never, ever bored.

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There is always something new to learn,

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there's something new to do.

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I mean, everything was...

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I just can't imagine I would have...

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..had a better life than that.

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Also in the group were two middle-class British women -

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Josie, who was studying music when she met Balakrishnan,

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and Sian Davies,

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a postgraduate student at the London School of Economics.

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I was particularly intrigued by Sian's story.

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How did you know Sian?

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I was at school with her.

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-And what school was it?

-It was Cheltenham Ladies College.

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She was academic. I think she was quite profoundly academic

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in a funny way. It wasn't necessarily the type of academia

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that passed exams at a very high level at that stage,

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but she was a deep thinker.

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-THROUGH MEGAPHONE:

-The Labour Party, the Tory Party,

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and the Liberals are all enemies of the working class...

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We used to see them down in the marketplace.

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We used to have our paper sales there and other groups did as well.

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It was a bit of a crowded market.

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And these guys would turn up.

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They didn't have a paper to sell but they used to hand out leaflets

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and we used to collect them,

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because they were sort of like the comic relief.

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And we popped down the pub afterwards for a pint and we'd just

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roar with laughter at what the Workers Institute had to say.

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"The Communist Party of China and Chairman Mao are on the verge

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"of launching a final offensive this year

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"to dismantle the old world of colonialism,

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"imperialism and a hegemonism and build the new world of socialism."

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"And then," in emphasis,

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"eternal glory to our great leader and teacher, Chairman Mao Tse-tung.

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"Uphold proletarian internationalism."

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There we are.

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I have one specific memory of her...

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..which is probably the last time I saw her.

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I can't be sure of that, but I think it probably was,

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when she invited me for dinner.

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She had her boyfriend, Martin, there.

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And she was dressed in...

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dressed like a Maoist with all, you know, the blue and the collar,

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and the whole dinner we had the Chinese Communist radio playing

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and she talked to me...

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Well, the way she talked to me I didn't know who she was.

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She had become a Communist in the way she was talking to me.

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She, she...

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There was nothing of her coming through at all by this stage,

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that's what I would say. It was quite scary.

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I didn't like being there, it was too late, I had to stay the night.

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She didn't want to give me a bed because I wasn't a Communist.

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But I got a mattress eventually

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and I'm afraid the next morning I just ran away.

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One of the things that's interesting is that the Workers Institute

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was probably unique among the groups of the far left,

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in that they didn't see themselves as being in the business

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of creating a revolution. They saw their role

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as preparing the population in the "imperialist heartlands",

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as they referred to Brixton, London, Britain,

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for liberation by the Chinese.

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Did they set a date when the Chinese Liberation Army were going to do this?

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End of 1977.

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And so, very early in 1978,

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I had a conversation with several of the members at the time,

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expressed my disappointment that I had not been liberated from

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capitalist oppression as they had predicted.

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And they said that the computer satellites got so good that

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actually the Chinese do already control everything in the world,

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but they realise that you can't hand people socialism on a plate,

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they need to learn to struggle for themselves.

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So they have actually taken over everything but they're leaving

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the appearance of capitalism in place, so that people

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can actually have this experience of liberating themselves.

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The idea was that the Chinese Red Army would come

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and liberate the UK within a year.

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That's what Bala expected.

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-Yes.

-Remember that?

-Yes.

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So you're waiting for that to happen?

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Yes, I suppose.

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-It didn't happen.

-It didn't happen, did it?

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I came across Aravindan Balakrishnan in the mid-70s.

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It was my formative years as a police officer,

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I was a uniformed police officer in Brixton.

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And it really was an age of lots happening.

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There was anti-capitalist marches.

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The whole environment was like a cauldron of demonstration.

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And in amongst all of that,

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appeared in these premises here in Acre Lane

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what was called the Chairman Mao Memorial Centre.

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And this was quite intriguing even for those days,

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and I decided to pay them a visit one day.

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And I said to Balakrishnan, "I'm going to be watching you.

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"And I'll be looking out every time I come by,

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"what you're doing in here."

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The Workers Institute were raided.

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That was very, very rare. We were all surprised,

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considering these guys had no presence anywhere

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and were only just like a nuisance to the authorities,

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of a non-political nature.

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We, the police, got a warrant, and it's very telling

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we got that warrant under the misuse of drugs act because, you know,

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our belief was that these people were on some form of drugs,

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and the place was raided by police and no drugs were found,

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and it was boarded up and closed down.

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And while their view is going to be,

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"Yes, this is the capitalist state closing us down",

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well, I'm sorry, sometimes it needs a hard hand.

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Well, we called it a trumped-up charge.

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You see, the charge was about

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having...drugs.

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Having and holding drugs and consuming drugs as well.

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So none of us even smoked cigarettes,

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so we don't know anything about drugs.

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This was seen as persecution and as I understand it,

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that's when Balakrishnan then withdrew

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into a much more almost a hermetic kind of environment

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with just the very, very small group of mostly female acolytes.

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People would say every so often,

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"Whatever happened to The Workers Institute?"

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Cos they'd suddenly disappeared,

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cos they'd always be there on the corner at Brixton.

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And then they suddenly disappeared.

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And now we know what happened, they went underground,

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or what was left of them.

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By 1980, The Collective was living in hiding

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and consisted of Balakrishnan, his wife and her sister,

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and seven other women, including Sian, Josie and Aisha.

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# I wanna be immortal

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# Like a God in the sky... #

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Exploiting their isolation from the world,

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Balakrishnan indoctrinated them with increasingly strange ideas.

0:23:260:23:31

Was it your understanding that he was immortal?

0:23:370:23:40

Well, he did say that,

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and he did repeat it again and again.

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And...

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he also showed how...

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it was possible for him to be immortal.

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How did he show that?

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Well...

0:24:030:24:05

..you know, different things.

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For example, he never believes in going to the dentist

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because he say we should let the teeth drop naturally.

0:24:140:24:18

-Hello again.

-Hello.

0:24:200:24:21

'And then by the time you're 100 years, the teeth will re-grow.'

0:24:210:24:25

Hi, I'm Dr Hare. Pleased to meet you. Would you like to have a seat?

0:24:250:24:28

And then you have another set of teeth

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and then when those drop, you re-grow again.

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I just want to have a talk with you about your teeth.

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You see, you've lost quite a number of teeth, over the years.

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We lost teeth, we wait until the tooth has grown again.

0:24:420:24:47

-Yes.

-Until the tooth grows on its own?

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Yes. It will grow on its own when we are 100 or over years.

0:24:500:24:55

-It will grow back on its own?

-Yes.

-Have you ever heard of that?

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-Have you ever heard of teeth growing back?

-No.

0:24:590:25:01

Well, I've heard of it.

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It does happen, but I don't know if I'm going to be even 100 years old.

0:25:050:25:09

Yeah, yeah,

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-you see sometimes it's better to keep what you have...

-Yes.

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..rather than wait for...

0:25:140:25:16

No, no, I don't lose my teeth on purpose.

0:25:160:25:19

No, no, I know.

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What I was told is that let the teeth fall by itself,

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and that it will grow up again.

0:25:250:25:27

Who said this to you?

0:25:270:25:29

-Somebody I know.

-Somebody you know. Right.

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I suppose, again, you know, from the outside,

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it does sound like you were brainwashed.

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What's your response to that, Aisha?

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I think a question of brainwashed, I quite agree.

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I think the line that we were given

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is that we do need to be...

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Our brains did need to be washed.

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Because it was,

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you know it was...

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..dirty, you know, mucky or whatever.

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Had to be washed of all ideas.

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When you bring...want to build a new world

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you can't bring the old, you know, into it.

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So we had to chip away the old

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and in place you can't leave it blank,

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you have to fill the void.

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In 1983,

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Balakrishnan's socialist programme took a new and sinister direction.

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He began an experiment which he called Project Prem.

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When Katy was born, did you know who the father of the baby was?

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No.

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I did ask Sian.

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I said, because at first when she was pregnant

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we didn't know she was pregnant. Well, I didn't, anyway.

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So I said, "Sian," you know, "are you pregnant?"

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Because her tummy was going bigger.

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She said, "No, it's not."

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I said, "Why is your body like this?"

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So she said, you know, "Some people do have it like this.

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"That's gas in the body and, you know, it gets bigger and bigger."

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So that's it. And when Katy was born I was really shocked.

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Do you think Sian believed that?

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Did she know she was pregnant?

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Maybe she didn't, I don't know.

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Maybe she didn't either, you know.

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So that must have been a real surprise.

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-Yes.

-So she had a big tummy for whatever strange reason,

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-and then suddenly a baby arrived.

-That's right, yes.

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I think he used to say that I was brought out of electronic warfare.

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His mind control machine, Jackie, was meant to have...

0:28:010:28:04

..got Sian pregnant I suppose.

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Tell me what name you were given at birth, Katy.

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Prem Maopinduzi.

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The first name, Prem, is in ancient language, it is meant to mean love,

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and the second name is,

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I think it is from Swahili, it means revolution.

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So it meant love revolution,

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and...

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I hated that.

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-Because your name was actually an instruction.

-Yes.

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-It was like "You must love revolution"?

-Yes.

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And he thought that when he rules the world that I'm meant to be like

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a soldier for him or his mouthpiece.

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Project Prem was an experiment in child-rearing,

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intended to eliminate the nuclear family.

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Comrade Prem, as Katy was known,

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was dressed in genderless clothing,

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was never told who her parents were

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and was raised collectively by the group.

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-AISHA:

-It is a new way of looking after a baby, it is not done before.

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I'm so used to babies being held and cuddled

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and carried and things like that.

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We were discouraged from doing those things because...

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..I wasn't really

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clear exactly what

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the correct lines were, but

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it meant to, um...

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..you see, the baby meant to be solid

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without any encumbrances from anywhere else, you see.

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So you just meant to stand by him...herself.

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I suppose that was the idea, you know,

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that when you hold somebody or caress somebody

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there's a bonding going on, you know,

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there's a bond between baby and mother.

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But that wasn't that encouraged in Katy.

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He was the only one who was meant to cuddle me

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and no-one else was meant to, because

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if I was to cuddle other people,

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he used to say that that's being,

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like being a lesbian to cuddle other women.

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When Katy was born there were plenty of things I had to question...

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..and this was one of them,

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about treatment of Katy, disciplining of her.

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And there was a discipline on me as well.

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There was once when Katy wet herself

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and she was only four and...

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you know, she was denounced

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and I was denounced as well for letting her wet her...

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And I was so angry about it, I really felt

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like running out the house at that time, but I didn't.

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I tried hard not to because

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then I could see that if I had gone out, I had nobody outside.

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I'd lost contact with my family.

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I had no money, I had no job...

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..and I might have been deported.

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They were strange.

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If you see them on the street, even shopping, they never say hello.

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They just go straight in, out. Yeah.

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If I'm in the garden, they're upstairs,

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if they see anyone out, if you look up,

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they close the curtain so you don't actually see who's looking.

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What did you think, they were unusual neighbours?

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I just thought were refugees that lived there.

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I thought they were hiding from somebody, never speak.

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But one looked like, she looked like English.

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But the others looked like Chinese or Filipino, whatever.

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But one, she's tall and the rest short.

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The garden was overgrown, it must have been three/four foot

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all the time since them people left. And it was the same with

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the front of the house, he would never cut anything.

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He would always tie the stuff back just enough to get a wheelchair

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in and out, and the whole garden was covered in weeds.

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Curtains were never opened at any time at all, front or back of house.

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The only time you'd see them was sometimes at the back when

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the little girl would turn round and

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pop the head up, pop back down again.

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So is it disturbing to you, Peter,

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to think that there was a child being held captive next door?

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I mean, as I'm talking to yourself now,

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it's actually bringing a lump to the throat.

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What aspect of it is upsetting for you, Peter?

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It's just the thought of what that child has gone through,

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at the time I just didn't do anything about it.

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I mean, I'm so sorry that I didn't.

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Again, I didn't know what was happening but if I did,

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I definitely would have done something about it.

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-KATY:

-One night, 1996,

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there was screaming in the middle of the night, and subsequently

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I learned that Sian had tried to stab herself with a knife.

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And then...

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on the early morning of Christmas Eve,

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again there was screaming and shouting in the middle of the night

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so I went downstairs with Aisha,

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who I was sleeping with and found...

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Sian's...

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Sian was lying on the floor and she had been tied up.

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Her hands and legs were tied and she was gagged.

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And she had this piece of cloth in her mouth.

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I don't know if it was a sock or something, I don't know.

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And Oh and Josie were both holding her down on the floor

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and they had tied her up

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and Bala and Chanda were both shouting at her.

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She had tried to run out, that's why she was tied up.

0:34:480:34:52

So you think she was trying to leave, or trying to escape?

0:34:520:34:55

Yeah, she was trying to escape.

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And then because she couldn't escape that way, that's why she...

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she went out through the window, thinking she could escape that way.

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She had lost her mind by that time.

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AB said that,

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you know, that she fell.

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He started from the beginning to say that she fell,

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you know, because of the nature of the bathroom.

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So I just stuck to that.

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Having fallen from the bathroom window,

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Sian was taken to hospital where she fell into a coma

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and died seven months later.

0:35:410:35:43

There was an inquest after Sian's death

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and at that inquest you were asked whether she had any children.

0:35:480:35:51

-Yes.

-And you said no.

0:35:510:35:53

No. Yes.

0:35:530:35:55

Why was that your response?

0:35:550:35:57

Because AB said to do so.

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Because we definitely didn't want Katy to be taken away

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and then live a life as of old, you know.

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And not participate to build a new...society.

0:36:100:36:15

At the time of the inquest,

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a journalist visited The Collective and had an exchange on the doorstep

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with Josie, Aisha, and a third woman,

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Oh Kareng, who was also from Malaysia.

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You have come when you come, when the milkman comes,

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you're part of the fascist state.

0:36:400:36:42

Could we speak to Comrade Bala, please?

0:36:420:36:44

You're part of the fascist state and if you don't stop harassing us

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we'll call the open fascist state on you.

0:36:470:36:49

Could we speak to Comrade Bala, please?

0:36:490:36:51

We don't want to talk to you.

0:36:510:36:53

Are you higher than the Coroner's Court?

0:36:530:36:55

Everything has to be sorted out there.

0:36:550:36:58

I'd just like to ask you very simple questions.

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Why won't you speak to us?

0:37:000:37:01

You are showing that you're a part of the fascist state.

0:37:010:37:03

Josephine, why won't you speak to us, please?

0:37:030:37:05

You are showing us that. We don't want to talk to you.

0:37:050:37:07

Please. Could we speak to Comrade Bala, please?

0:37:070:37:10

We don't want to talk to you.

0:37:100:37:11

Sian died when Katy was only 14.

0:37:140:37:17

After she died, did life get better or worse for you?

0:37:190:37:24

Life got better for me in a funny way.

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I mean, because she was

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one of the worst,

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like, servants

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of...of Bala.

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So it was such a relief with her not there.

0:37:370:37:40

Because his sort of worst kind of enforcer had gone?

0:37:400:37:43

Yes, his worse enforcer had gone, yes.

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Life may have improved

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but the unbearable tyranny of Project Prem continued.

0:37:570:38:01

He used to say that everything would go against me if I had

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done wrong,

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so like...

0:38:200:38:22

..possibly the, like the light shouldn't work

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or the tap shouldn't work

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because everything is controlled by him,

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by Jackie, his mind control machine.

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So, like,

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I went to the bathroom and turned the tap on,

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it shouldn't work because I had done wrong.

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But then when I went to the bathroom and the tap did work

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I thought, "Oh, the tap, you're on my side, thank you,"

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and I kissed the tap

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and hugged the toilet when the flush worked.

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I used to look forward to the clocks changing,

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when they used to go forward in March or go backwards in October,

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because that made things a bit different.

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Get darker or lighter in the evenings.

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In 2004, Comrade Oh,

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who had been with Balakrishnan since the '70s

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had an accident in the kitchen.

0:39:380:39:41

I think she banged her head...

0:39:440:39:46

..and she collapsed

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and she was shouting, "Call the doctor."

0:39:510:39:55

Bala and Chanda kept harassing her as she was collapsing

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and she was ill and kept saying,

0:40:020:40:04

talking, talking, talking to her and trying to force to answer questions,

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and she couldn't answer because she was,

0:40:080:40:12

she was dying, really, and then they started saying to her,

0:40:120:40:16

"Stop throwing a tantrum.

0:40:160:40:17

"Nobody bangs their head and refuses to talk," and things like that,

0:40:170:40:21

but she was actually...

0:40:210:40:23

..unable to,

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to talk because she was...

0:40:280:40:31

She had a stroke.

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And then the next day she died.

0:40:330:40:35

By now, two comrades had died

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and three other women who had been with the group since the 1970s

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had chosen to leave.

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The Collective had dwindled to just six.

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Balakrishnan, his wife, Chanda,

0:40:550:40:57

her sister and Katy,

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and only two remaining followers, Josie and Aisha.

0:40:590:41:03

Josie and Aisha were required to do all the housework.

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And The Collective depended financially

0:41:120:41:14

on Chanda's Carer's Allowance

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and her sister's disability benefit.

0:41:160:41:19

Balakrishnan continued to frighten the few remaining members

0:41:220:41:26

of the household into staying.

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He also used to say that if I defied him,

0:41:310:41:34

and just wanted to go out on my own then...

0:41:340:41:38

..either there will be...

0:41:390:41:41

Lightning will strike me dead or...

0:41:410:41:43

..blow up, as it's called, spontaneous human combustion.

0:41:440:41:47

-So that you would spontaneously combust?

-Yes.

0:41:500:41:53

-Or explode?

-Mm.

0:41:550:41:57

To me, that idea that someone would spontaneously combust

0:42:000:42:05

if they left their flat is complete nonsense,

0:42:050:42:08

to me, with my worldview.

0:42:080:42:10

Now that you're out and living your own life,

0:42:120:42:15

can you see that that sounds like nonsense?

0:42:150:42:18

Well, it...

0:42:180:42:21

I can see that it can be nonsensical but...

0:42:210:42:25

..there is such a thing as spontaneous human combustion.

0:42:260:42:31

I've read about it in two or three different places,

0:42:320:42:37

so I have an open mind about that.

0:42:370:42:40

But as to whether, if he can induce it as and when he wants,

0:42:450:42:50

that's the different issue.

0:42:500:42:52

# I have a dream

0:42:540:42:56

# A song to sing

0:42:580:43:00

# To help me cope

0:43:020:43:05

# With anything...#

0:43:070:43:09

In 2005, at the age of 22,

0:43:090:43:12

having never gone outside on her own

0:43:120:43:15

and despite believing she could be killed by Jackie,

0:43:150:43:19

Katy decided to take the risk and made a break for it.

0:43:190:43:23

How did you get out of the house?

0:43:250:43:27

By the back door.

0:43:280:43:31

And then just carrying lots of bags and things.

0:43:330:43:36

And somebody saw me and said,

0:43:370:43:40

"Do you need any help with your bags?"

0:43:400:43:44

So I said, "No, but I've run away from home."

0:43:440:43:47

So they said...

0:43:470:43:48

So I said, "What do I do?"

0:43:500:43:52

So they said, go to the police station.

0:43:520:43:54

So I did.

0:43:540:43:56

Tell me what happened when you went into the police station?

0:44:000:44:04

So they persuaded...

0:44:040:44:05

..me to let them call,

0:44:070:44:09

call Bala, so then he came.

0:44:090:44:13

Balakrishnan reassured the police that all was well

0:44:150:44:19

and took Katy back to The Collective,

0:44:190:44:22

where she remained in captivity for another eight years.

0:44:220:44:25

AB did say that he liked to discuss things and query things,

0:44:300:44:37

why things are done like this or like that.

0:44:370:44:40

But he said that if it's gone more than two or three times

0:44:420:44:49

then he resorts to, you know, slapping you or, you know...

0:44:490:44:54

..on the face, you see. And something...

0:44:550:44:59

Sometimes other parts as well.

0:44:590:45:01

So, yes, it did happen.

0:45:010:45:04

-It did take place.

-So you were beaten?

0:45:040:45:07

I was, yes.

0:45:070:45:09

Was everybody beaten?

0:45:090:45:10

I would have thought so, yes.

0:45:120:45:15

These are outrageous allegations, it didn't happen.

0:45:150:45:17

-Did you ever see him hit anybody?

-No.

0:45:170:45:20

-Or humiliate anybody?

-No, I didn't.

-Shout at anybody?

0:45:200:45:23

-He didn't do that to me. No.

-You never saw anything like that?

0:45:230:45:27

No, I didn't.

0:45:270:45:29

Every aspect of life in The Collective was neatly timetabled

0:45:360:45:39

and logged in handwritten rotas,

0:45:390:45:42

including Balakrishnan's baths and meals.

0:45:420:45:45

But over time, the daily schedule evolved.

0:45:540:45:58

Previously, only Balakrishnan and his wife had had access

0:45:580:46:02

to the television,

0:46:020:46:04

but now all the comrades were allowed to watch selected programmes

0:46:040:46:08

including the Six O'Clock News.

0:46:080:46:10

Would you discuss the news with him?

0:46:120:46:13

Would you discuss world events with him?

0:46:130:46:16

He would discuss with us.

0:46:160:46:18

-So he would talk and you would listen.

-Mm.

0:46:180:46:20

It sounds like there wasn't much discussion, actually,

0:46:200:46:24

cos discussion means people exchanging ideas.

0:46:240:46:26

-That's right.

-But actually he talked and you listened.

0:46:260:46:29

-That's right.

-So there's no discussion, in fact.

-No.

0:46:290:46:33

In her late twenties, Katy, suffering from undiagnosed diabetes,

0:46:410:46:46

began to rapidly lose weight.

0:46:460:46:49

Terrified that a third member of The Collective might die,

0:46:490:46:53

Josie committed to memory a helpline number she had seen on the news.

0:46:530:46:57

If you or someone you know is affected by forced marriage,

0:46:590:47:02

call the BBC Action Line to hear recorded information.

0:47:020:47:04

That's on 0800...

0:47:040:47:06

Josie saved money in secret,

0:47:060:47:09

smuggled a mobile phone into the flat

0:47:090:47:11

and in protracted discussions with the helpline,

0:47:110:47:14

put together an escape plan.

0:47:140:47:16

It was arranged that Katy and Josie would leave

0:47:180:47:21

when Balakrishnan and Chanda were out shopping.

0:47:210:47:24

So at 11:15 sharp we left,

0:47:280:47:31

Josie and me, with our trolleys.

0:47:310:47:35

I had absolutely no intention of leaving, you know.

0:47:370:47:41

In fact leaving The Collective for me was really sort of like

0:47:410:47:44

breaking my heart, really. But...

0:47:440:47:46

I could see that she needed help, so, you know.

0:47:480:47:51

She asked me to go with her, so I agreed to do it.

0:47:510:47:55

I regret it very much now but at that time...

0:47:560:47:59

..I didn't think that...

0:48:000:48:02

..it would all blow up like this.

0:48:040:48:06

As Katy and Josie made their way to freedom,

0:48:100:48:13

Aisha chose to stay in The Collective and was there

0:48:130:48:16

when Balakrishnan and Chanda came back.

0:48:160:48:19

He was denouncing Katy and Josie...

0:48:250:48:29

..and saying that now they have joined the British fascist state

0:48:310:48:37

and all those things.

0:48:370:48:39

So, it was time for lunch so I said, I'll cook lunch.

0:48:390:48:43

So we were just sitting down to have lunch when the police came.

0:48:430:48:49

I told the police I'd come with them.

0:48:500:48:52

But as I was coming out I saw Chanda there and Bala there,

0:48:540:48:59

I went and hugged them.

0:48:590:49:02

Whatever I, you know, my misgivings...

0:49:020:49:05

..I hugged them anyway.

0:49:070:49:09

Was that the last time you saw them, Aisha?

0:49:120:49:14

-Mm-hmm.

-And that's sad... That memory is very sad for you?

0:49:140:49:18

-Sorry?

-Is that very sad for you when you remember that?

0:49:180:49:22

You look upset about that.

0:49:230:49:25

Yes, I am upset.

0:49:250:49:27

Because you'd been with them for 40 years or so?

0:49:270:49:30

And they were like family, really, to you?

0:49:300:49:33

In the course of the police investigation,

0:49:570:50:00

all charges against Balakrishnan's wife, Chanda, were dropped,

0:50:000:50:04

but new charges were brought against Balakrishnan himself.

0:50:040:50:08

It emerged that as well as having had sex with Sian,

0:50:080:50:12

Balakrishnan has sexually abused two other women over a period of years,

0:50:120:50:17

both of whom had fled The Collective by the early '90s.

0:50:170:50:21

The first incident with Ms A

0:50:230:50:28

was when she was

0:50:280:50:31

called into Mr Balakrishnan's bedroom.

0:50:310:50:34

It had never happened before. She didn't know why.

0:50:340:50:37

And without warning, he kissed her.

0:50:380:50:44

Mr Balakrishnan then began to summon Ms A to his bedroom,

0:50:450:50:51

and where the sexual abuse that had begun with a kiss

0:50:510:50:57

then became more extreme in nature.

0:50:570:51:01

And became...

0:51:010:51:02

..sexual abuse involving oral sex,

0:51:040:51:08

forcing her to perform oral sex upon him

0:51:080:51:12

and thereafter of sexual intercourse, rape.

0:51:120:51:16

The serious sexual abuse of that type continued...

0:51:170:51:20

..and involved in addition...

0:51:210:51:24

..the defendant ordering her to lick his anus.

0:51:250:51:29

She did as she was ordered,

0:51:300:51:32

notwithstanding the distress that plainly she was exhibiting.

0:51:320:51:37

One of the women who testified in court

0:51:420:51:45

said that when she tried to leave,

0:51:450:51:47

it says Woman A, was how she was called in court,

0:51:470:51:50

when she tried to leave she said that

0:51:500:51:54

Sian and Oh and Josie and you

0:51:540:51:58

all held her down whilst Bala beat her.

0:51:580:52:02

Is that true?

0:52:020:52:04

God.

0:52:050:52:07

I don't think I was there.

0:52:090:52:11

I mean, I might have been there but not holding her down like that

0:52:110:52:14

for AB to beat her.

0:52:140:52:16

-Let me put it another way, if that was true, Aisha...

-Mmm.

0:52:200:52:23

..would you feel able to tell me?

0:52:250:52:27

Or would it be too shameful?

0:52:270:52:29

I would tell you if I had done it, you know.

0:52:310:52:34

I would also be able to tell you why I did it,

0:52:340:52:37

but it was against me to do it.

0:52:370:52:40

It was against my instinct to do it, you know.

0:52:400:52:43

So does that mean she's lying?

0:52:430:52:46

She might have...

0:52:470:52:49

..she might have thought I was there because all three of them,

0:52:490:52:53

you know, if it's Sian, Josie and Oh was holding her down

0:52:530:52:58

and I was there she might have thought I was also putting her down.

0:52:580:53:03

I doubt there's even three of them,

0:53:040:53:06

you don't need three people to...

0:53:060:53:09

You know, maybe just Sian was holding her down.

0:53:090:53:12

Cos AB doesn't need anybody to...

0:53:120:53:15

..to be holding anybody for him to

0:53:160:53:19

give you a smack on the face.

0:53:190:53:22

A second woman, Woman B,

0:53:290:53:32

testified to a similar pattern of sexual abuse.

0:53:320:53:35

Balakrishnan was found guilty

0:53:360:53:39

and was sentenced to 23 years in prison for crimes

0:53:390:53:42

including rape, sexual assault,

0:53:420:53:45

child cruelty and the false imprisonment of his daughter.

0:53:450:53:49

This is a miscarriage of justice.

0:53:510:53:53

It's the state taking their revenge

0:53:530:53:55

because we were flourishing in Brixton,

0:53:550:53:58

where we had our centre.

0:53:580:54:00

Sorry to interrupt,

0:54:000:54:01

but that's just nonsense.

0:54:010:54:03

I mean, the judge found your husband

0:54:030:54:07

and your guru to be a narcissistic, violent rapist.

0:54:070:54:12

-He's completely wrong.

-He's not.

-He's completely wrong.

0:54:120:54:16

I was living in the same house, he's completely wrong.

0:54:160:54:20

I'm sad for Josie but that's her choice,

0:54:200:54:23

so I have to respect her choice.

0:54:230:54:26

And why are you sad for her? What are you sad about?

0:54:260:54:29

I'm sad that she can't...

0:54:310:54:33

can't free her mind from the spell of...

0:54:330:54:36

..of the cult.

0:54:370:54:39

Aisha is now 72, and is living in sheltered housing.

0:54:560:55:00

Was any aspect of Bala's political experiment,

0:55:040:55:07

was any aspect of that a success, would you say?

0:55:070:55:11

I think the issue about...

0:55:120:55:15

..loving somebody who is not your own,

0:55:170:55:21

I think that is a success.

0:55:210:55:24

That every child

0:55:280:55:30

has the right to live properly, to be loved, to be cared.

0:55:300:55:34

Do you see there's a contradiction there, Aisha,

0:55:370:55:39

because Bala's has gone to prison for abusing Katy?

0:55:390:55:42

Yes, but

0:55:440:55:46

I mean...

0:55:460:55:47

..we now know how Katy felt about it, and in the future,

0:55:490:55:55

we know not to do that.

0:55:550:55:57

If you can't find a new way then we carry on with the old, I suppose,

0:56:030:56:09

but surely the old hasn't worked,

0:56:090:56:11

so we still have to find what is better.

0:56:110:56:14

Katy is doing her best to leave the indoctrination of her past behind.

0:56:250:56:29

She's attending college and has recently moved

0:56:290:56:33

out of supported accommodation into a flat of her own.

0:56:330:56:36

When she first came, yes, she was 30 years old

0:56:390:56:42

in the way that we measure age, but she wasn't.

0:56:420:56:44

She was much probably nearer to ten or 11 or something like that.

0:56:440:56:48

But we've almost seen this journey through the ages, I think,

0:56:480:56:51

and I think she's getting very close to her numerical age now.

0:56:510:56:55

-Yes.

-I think she's in her 20s now.

-Yes.

0:56:550:56:58

-What about Bala, do you hate him?

-No.

0:57:010:57:04

Why don't you hate him, Katy? He stole 30 years of your life.

0:57:060:57:09

Yes, I know.

0:57:090:57:12

I did used to hate him because I had no other...

0:57:120:57:17

I just felt completely powerless, so I did used to hate him then.

0:57:170:57:23

But life is also very short.

0:57:230:57:26

There's no time to be spent on

0:57:260:57:28

hatred and anger towards other people.

0:57:280:57:31

And also, when Nelson Mandela said that...

0:57:310:57:34

..you are still in prison if you hold on to your anger,

0:57:360:57:39

hatred and bitterness.

0:57:390:57:41

So...

0:57:420:57:44

I would like to reconcile with him in the future, yes.

0:57:440:57:47

If he wants that,

0:57:490:57:51

but you can't clap with one hand, so...

0:57:510:57:54

# He walked into my life

0:57:570:58:00

# And now he's taking over

0:58:020:58:04

# And it's beautiful

0:58:060:58:09

# Yes, it's beautiful

0:58:110:58:14

# I've gone with better looking guys

0:58:140:58:17

# He's gone with prettier looking girls

0:58:190:58:22

# But now we're beautiful... #

0:58:240:58:26

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.