Three women have been “rescued” last month from a house in Peckford Place, Brixton as police investigate claims that they were held as slaves for about 30 years. The couple arrested are 73-year old Aravindan Balakrishnan and his 67-year old wife, Chanda who were leading figures at the Mao Zedong Memorial Centre in Acre Lane, Brixton, in the 1970s.
Aravindan Balakrishnan also known as Comrade Bala used to deliver Maoist lectures back in the 70s and according to an interview with Dudley Heslop, who was one of the attendees to his lectures, he said that, “He was a master of words”. Dudley also told BBC the following statement:
“There are certain people who could sell snow to an Eskimo. He was one of those. People were coming to see if there were any answers through this Maoism. He was basically advocating that people should do what China was doing.”
“On the front you had this big poster of Mao Tse Tung staring out on Acre Lane. Inside you walked in and there were these big banners, ‘uphold the dictatorship of the proletariat’, ‘store grain everywhere’.”
BBC also interviewed another witness, Charlotte Watts, who is Balakrishnan’s former neighbour, regarding the three victims. According to Watts, one of the three victims would stand at the window for hours. “I do remember her writing notes…I could never read what they were saying,” she added. Watts also described what she witnessed and experienced before they moved houses:
“They were different; they appeared quite vulnerable and they didn’t have any social skills whatsoever. They used to walk in a line and they never made any eye contact. Everybody used to know about them and talk about them, and we always thought it was a halfway house for abused women.”
The victims’ names have been confirmed and revealed recently. The 69-year old Malaysian national – Siti Aishah Abdullah Wahab, the 57-year old woman from Ireland – Josephine Herivel and the 30-year old Briton national – Rosie Davies. According to BBC, these women had suffered years of “physical and mental abuse” and were very traumatised.
According to a local news portal, Siti Aishah’s 88-year old older sister, Hasnah Abdul Wahab cannot wait to meet her long-lost sibling whom she last met 45 years ago. She said the following during her interview with The Star:
“Now that she’s been found, I hope she will come home. I can’t wait to see her again. My sister Siti Aishah, who was a former student at the Tunku Kurshiah College, was a very bright girl. I have so longed for her and hope to meet her soonest. One of my uncles who were working as a bank officer in London met her twice a long time ago, but she disappeared again.”
Siti Aishah has been held captive in London for 30 years, therefore, the authorities would need some time to determine her legal status and reinstate her Malaysian citizenship. The British authorities released a statement that reads:
“As the case remains under investigation, access to further information is limited and restricted by the Data Protection Act 1998 under the local laws of the United Kingdom. No direct access to the victim has been authorised so far.”
Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar also stated, “She was a Malaysian citizen but she went to London in the 1970s…We will find out more from our British counterparts.”
Here’s the full statement from Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar:
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