London slavery case: Suspects 'former Maoist activists'

Tom Symonds: "This house is now one of 13 addresses being investigated by the police"

Related Stories

A married couple suspected of holding three women as slaves for more than 30 years are former Maoist activists Aravindan Balakrishnan and his wife Chanda, the BBC understands.

According to national Marxist records they were leading figures at the Mao Zedong Memorial Centre in Acre Lane, Brixton, south London, in the 1970s.

It was raided by police and five people, including the pair, were held.

Mr Balakrishnan, 73, and his 67-year-old wife were arrested on Thursday.

Three women were rescued from their home in Brixton a month earlier.

What is Maoism?

The name comes from the Chinese communist leader, Mao Zedong, who put industry under state ownership, collectivised farming and ruthlessly suppressed opposition.

Maoism within China represented "traditional conventional communism" but with an authoritarian class, according to Dr Xiaobing Wang of Manchester University.

Outside China, it is often used to characterise rebel groups, he says.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Maoism outside China often meant communal living and egalitarianism with an authoritarian structure, Prof James Grayson, of the University of Sheffield says.

The couple have been linked to 13 addresses across London, the Metropolitan Police has confirmed. The force would not confirm or deny their names.

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

Officers said the women had suffered years of "physical and mental abuse".

They lived together as a "collective" after two of the women met the man through a "shared political ideology".

Home affairs correspondent Tom Symonds said several sources had suggested a fifth woman - who was elderly and used a wheelchair - had stayed at the house in Brixton, though it was unclear whether she was a permanent resident.

The Metropolitan Police would neither confirm nor deny the presence of another woman at the property during last week's arrest.

'Psychological cage'

Records of the Communist Party of England (Marxist-Leninist) show Mr Balakrishnan was suspended from the organisation in 1974.

He set up a splinter group in the same year called The Workers' Institute of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought.

It was based at Acre Lane, Brixton. The building was used as a bookshop and political commune.

Local shopkeeper Cliff McKinson said he visited the building on three occasions in the 1970s.

Acre Lane, Brixton A building in Acre Lane, Brixton, was a political commune in the 1970s and is now a restaurant

"They were just sort of gathering inside and outside; I was fascinated, I went there three times," he said.

"There were women who come and go freely, especially in the evenings. I was at work when the police came and raided it."

Professor Dennis Tourish, from the Royal Holloway University of London, said followers of Marxism often committed their lives to their beliefs.

"They develop a number of organisational rituals of which communal living is one," he said.

"The people they are working with and recruiting commit all their resources, including their time and money, and in a sense their souls to supporting the aims and objectives of the group."

Criminal psychologist Dr David Holmes said the details appeared to suggest a "kind of political cult" or "enforced commune" was in effect holding the captives "almost in a psychological cage".

Previous arrests

The three alleged victims, a 30-year-old Briton, a 57-year-old Irish woman and a 69-year-old Malaysian, are in the care of a non-governmental organisation following their rescue last month.

Police said the 30-year-old woman, who is believed to have lived her entire life in servitude, had a birth certificate but no other official papers.

She is said to have written more than 200 impassioned letters and poems to her neighbour over an eight-year period, the Daily Mail reported.

In one of the letters, she said she felt like a "fly trapped in a spider's web" and described her "unspeakable torment".

Map of Brixton

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

The couple were arrested on Thursday on suspicion of being involved in forced labour and slavery. They have also been arrested for immigration offences.

They have been released on bail until January.

'Complex case'

Police said they were of Indian and Tanzanian origin and came to the UK in the 1960s.

Thirty-seven officers from the Met's human trafficking unit are working on the case.

Lambeth Council said it had been working closely with the police in the weeks before the women's rescue.

A spokesperson said: "This is an extremely complex case involving a number of individuals going back decades.

"It is too early at this stage to provide the detail of any contact we may have had with them."

The council said the security, confidentiality and well-being of those involved was paramount.

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

BBC London

Weather

London

19 °C 6 °C

BBC Local Live

  1.  
    Robert Elms show 12:25: BBC London 94.9 Radio

    We'll be hearing about the acts featuring in this year's London International Ska Festival from organiser Sean Flowerdew and Robert will be talking to one of the performers, Dennis Bovell.

    Headline acts this Easter weekend include Horace Andy, Derrick Morgan, Keith & Tex, and Ken Parker.

     
  2.  
    Cyclist injured 12:17:

    A cyclist, who was training with a friend for the London to Brighton bike ride, has been injured after a hit-and-run incident in Copthorne, West Sussex.

    The 23-year-old from Horley, Surrey, was clipped by the wing mirror of a black Peugeot car yesterday evening as he rode along Copthorne Common Road, Sussex Police said.

     
  3.  
    On this day 12:05:

    Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's funeral was held at St Paul's Cathedral on 17 April last year.

    The funeral of Margaret Thatcher
     
  4.  
    Lamb-less meals 11:55:

    A series of tests in London and Birmingham takeaways has found nearly of third of lamb meals contained a different meat.

    The Foods Standards Agency (FSA) found that 43 out of 145 samples of lamb takeaways - usually curries or kebabs - were wrongly described, and contained beef which is cheaper than lamb.

     
  5.  
    Firearms seizure 11:46:

    Metropolitan Police tweeted: Thirty firearms seized by #WalthamForest#Gangs Task Force in one of the Met's biggest ever gun seizures.

    Guns seized by police
     
  6.  
    Arsenal women held 11:34: Tony Leighton Women's football reporter

    Alex Scott's goal ensured FA Cup holders Arsenal opened their Women's Super League season with a 1-1 draw at Notts County.

    The Gunners were poor before the break, but much better in the second half and may well have won the game after right-back Scott levelled.

     
  7.  
    Libyan embassy siege 11:25:

    PC Yvonne Fletcher was one of 50 officers policing a protest against Colonel Gaddafi's regime outside the Libyan embassy in St James's Square in 1984 when she was hit by gunfire from a first-floor window.

    Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, Tim Fletcher (centre) and Queenie Fletcher (right) Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, Tim Fletcher (centre) and Queenie Fletcher (right)

    Her death led to an 11-day siege of the building and the severing of diplomatic links between the UK and Libya. Her parents, Tim and Queenie Fletcher, were present at the memorial along with relatives, friends and colleagues from the Met Police.

     
  8.  
    Shot PC Yvonne Fletcher remembered 11:15: Guy Smith BBC London's Home Affairs Correspondent

    tweeted: Met commissioner paying tribute to PC Yvonne Fletcher, killed 30 years ago today. Killer still not caught.

    Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe
     
  9.  
    Met vows to catch PC's killer 11:04:

    Met Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said officers are "determined to make sure we catch the person responsible" for the murder of PC Yvonne Fletcher, who was killed 30 years ago.

    Memorial plaque of PC Yvonne Fletcher

    The 25-year-old officer was shot dead outside Libya's London embassy in St James's Square, central London, on 17 April 1984. A two-minute silence has been observed at the spot where she was gunned down.

     
  10.  
    Barnet FC stadium row 10:54:

    A councillor who voted for Harrow Borough Council not to fight Barnet FC's planning appeal over the Hive stadium says he does not want to put taxpayer's money at risk, reports the Harrow Times.

     
  11.  
    Signal problems 10:42:

    National Rail has said a signalling problem between Hayes and Elmers End is causing delays of up to 20 minutes to trains between Hayes and London Charing Cross.

     
  12.  
    Mother at 12 10:29: BBC London 94.9 Radio

    Shannon Doyle, from the charity Straight Talking, told Vanessa Feltz that she was 18 years old when she had her child and had thought bringing up a child would be "easy" but later realised the child took up all her time.

    If she could she would wish to change the age at which she had her baby. Children need to be made more aware of how not to get pregnant and the implications of being a teenage parent, Ms Doyle said.

     
  13.  
    Crystal Palace result row 10:17:

    Cardiff's 3-0 defeat by Crystal Palace in early April should not be allowed to stand, the Welsh club have said in a five-page letter obtained by the BBC.

    Cardiff City playing Crystal Palace

    The document, sent by club lawyers to the Premier League, alleges Palace boss Tony Pulis knew sporting director Iain Moody was trying to obtain Cardiff's starting line-up before the game.

     
  14.  
    North Circular lanes blocked 10:03:

    TfL Traffic News tweeted: [A406] North Circular Road (Westbound) at the junction of Hale End Road - lanes 1 & 2 blocked due to a collision. Q's beyond Waterworks.

     
  15.  
    Palace help Arsenal 09:58: Brendan McLoughlin BBC Sport

    Everton handed the initiative back to Arsenal in the race for fourth as their seven-match winning streak ended with a damaging defeat to Crystal Palace.

    Jason Puncheon's half-volley and Scott Dann's header put Palace in control before Cameron Jerome added a third for the Eagles to see them win 2-3.

     
  16.  
    Mother at 12 09:50: BBC London 94.9 Radio

    Speaking on the issue of a north London 12-year-old girl becoming a mother, Christine from Stratford told Vanessa Feltz that Britain had lost its moral compass and the "circumstances are appalling".

    Christine says she tells her 12-year-old son not to go up to their friends' bedrooms without an adult's permission. She has also told him that if he becomes a young father he would be stuck in a home looking after the child while his friends built their careers.

     
  17.  
    TfL strike over pay row 09:44:

    Supervisors and managers at Transport for London (TfL) have voted to go on strike in a row over pay and pensions.

    The Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) said 1,000 staff had backed action by 3-1 in protest at a wage freeze and cuts to their final salary pensions.

     
  18.  
    Delays on Eurostar 09:35: Paul Murphy-Kasp Journalist, BBC London

    Eurostar is running with delays of around two hours on all services in and out of St Pancras International station after a person was hit by a train near Lille in France.

    All lines near Lille are blocked while emergency services attend the scene, but Eurostar is advising anyone booked on a train to check-in as normal.

     
  19.  
    On this day 09:27:

    In 1984, PC Yvonne Fletcher was shot dead outside the Libyan People's Bureau in central London.

    PC Yvonne Fletcher

    She had been policing a small demonstration outside the embassy.

     
  20.  
    Your views 09:16:

    We've introduced BBC Local Live to bring you news, sport, travel and weather updates in one place. We'd like to know what you think.

     
  21.  
    A return to Londonistan? 09:05: Frank Gardner BBC security correspondent

    The widely acknowledged failure of the Arab Spring uprisings to deliver democracy to the Middle East is reverberating here in Britain.

    With a backlash under way by some Arab governments against their opponents, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, could London once again become a haven for Arab dissidents bent on removing their own governments, as it was in the 1990s?

     
  22.  
    Forensic evidence lost 08:55: BBC London 94.9

    Most cold cases are solved on forensic evidence, something that is missing in PC Keith Blakelock's case, Tony Meisels, the lawyer for Nicholas Jacobs, told BBC London 94.9.

    PC Keith Blakelock PC Keith Blakelock was stabbed 43 times

    He said the "forensic opportunities were generally lost at the time" of the riots in Tottenham in 1985 as the scene was cleared, and without forensic evidence the case would be difficult to solve.

     
  23.  
    Seeking compensation? 08:46: BBC London 94.9

    Nicholas Jacobs has a "very strong case" for seeking compensation for being kept in custody for an extra night after being cleared of killing PC Keith Blakelock in 1985, Mr Jacob's lawyer told BBC London 94.9's Breakfast Show.

    Tony Meisels Tony Meisels says his client has a case for being held an extra night

    But Tony Meisels said his client is yet to decide whether he will seek compensation for being put on trial for a murder he did not commit.

     
  24.  
    Cleared Blakelock suspect 'frustrated' 08:36: BBC London 94.9

    Tony Meisels, the lawyer for Nicholas Jacobs, who was cleared of the murder of PC Keith Blakelock has said Mr Jacobs was "frustrated" by the Crown Prosecution Service's decision to prosecute him.

    Following the trial Mr Jacobs was "emotional" and needed time to gather his thoughts before speaking to the media.

     
  25.  
    PC Blakelock murder 08:26:

    The man cleared of killing PC Keith Blakelock has said he would feel "angry and disappointed at the system" if he was a member of the police officer's family.

    Nicky Jacobs Nicky Jacobs

    Speaking to BBC Newsnight, he said he would be outside court petitioning if he was in their position. Watch the full interview.

     
  26.  
    Becoming a mother at 12 08:22: BBC London 94.9

    The father of a 12-year-old girl from north London, who became one of the country's youngest mums after giving birth to a baby girl, says it is better than finding out she is on drugs.

    Some people say social services or even the police should be involved. Vanessa Feltz is asking what do you think? Live from 09:00.

     
  27.  
    Latest updates
  28.  
    Travel 08:14: Paul Murphy-Kasp Journalist, BBC London

    There has been a collision northbound on the A2 Old Kent Road, near Albany Road, which is leading to delays.

    There is congestion on the M25, especially clockwise over the QE2 Bridge and anticlockwise approaching J16 M40.

    Trains and Tubes are all reporting no problems so far this morning. Keep up to date by following @BBCTravelAlert.

     
  29.  
    Weather 08:05:

    It's a bright and dry start to the day, as this picture of the River Thames this morning shows.

    River Thames

    It'll be warm by the afternoon before cloud will gradually increase from the north with the risk of the odd light shower through to the evening. Highs of 15C (59F).

     
  30.  
    08:00: Debabani Majumdar BBC London News

    Morning. I'll be here throughout the day bringing you the latest news, sport, travel and weather for London.

    You can tell me your news by emailing london.locallive@bbc.co.uk or tweeting @BBCLondonNews.

     

Features

Elsewhere on the BBC

  • ChildMovie magic

    What do the similarities in children's movies reveal about cinema - and us?

Programmes

  • JellyClick Watch

    Can Twitter’s co-founder Biz Stone break the mould with his social Q&A Jelly app?

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.