by Bob Couttie

As more information emerges following the rescue of the three “slaves” by London’s Metropolitan police with the help of a charity opposed to forced marriage, this case becomes increasing strange, if not bizarre. A mysterious suicide of a woman whose daughter may be among those rescued plus the daughter of a top World War 2 codebreaker from Ireland, a Malaysian woman missing since 1969,  and the charismatic head of a Maoist commune, make for an intriguingly heady mix of curiosity.

Not to mention invisible handcuffs.

Rose Davis

Rose Davis

The case came to light following a documentary by the British Broadcasting Corporation, BBC, about forced marriage which gave the contact details of an NGO called Freedom Charity. Two of the enslaved women, 30-year old British-born Rose Davies and an Irish woman, 57-year old Josephine Herivel, telephoned the charity on 18 October using a secret mobile phone. They said they were being detained against their will along with a 69 year old Malaysian, Aisha Wahab.

They were allegedly being held by a couple – Indian national Aravindan Balakrishnan, 73, and his Tanzanian wife, Chandra, 67 – at a house in Lambeth.

Freedom Charity contacted the Metropolitan Police Sexual Offences Exploitation and Child Abuse Command which passed the case to the Human Trafficking Unit. After sensitive negotiations, the three women left the house on 25 October while Balakrishnan and Chandra were out.

Balakrishnan and Chandra were arrested on suspicion of being involved in forced labour and slavery, as well as immigration offences but have been bailed out. Police say that the couple were also arrested on undisclosed charges in the 1970’s. They are known to have lived at more than a dozen addresses in London.

It took a month of counselling by trauma experts before the three women could be interviewed by the police.

Strangely, none of the women had been physical restrained during their captivity but had been nonetheless unable to leave. Trauma experts are trying to understand what they call the ‘invisible handcuffs’ that kept the women under control.

lon11Two of the three women, Josephine Herivel and Aisha Wahab, had joined a Maoist commune set up by the charismatic Balakrishnan in the 1970s when he was known as Comrade Bala. Another young woman, Sian Davies also joined the commune in the 1970s; she is listed as mother on Rose Davies’s birth certificate — the only official documentation of Rose Davies’s existence.

In an event that looks increasingly sinister, Sian Davies is alleged to have committed suicide by throwing herself from a window of a house in Brixton where the commune lived. Independent Television, ITV, made a documentary about the death in 1997. Mmbers of the commune attended an inquest into the death and the documentary features the only known photographs of Herivel, Wahab, Balakrishnan and Chandra.

lonDavies’s suicide is now being re-examined. Police say her daughter, Rose, “… had been in servitude all her life”.

It is now believed that Josephine Herivel is the daughter of John Herivel, a top Bletchley Park codebreaker in World War 2 whose ‘Herivel Tip’ played a key role in deciphering the German Enigma codes.

Little is known of Aisha Wahab, also known as Aisha Matum, except that she moved to Britain in the late 1960s then join Balakrishnan’s commune.

One of the women, believed to be Rose, was spotted repeatedly holding a note to a window on the second floor of the commune’s house, then in Brixton, but neighbours could not read the note – it was written in ballpoint pen.

The three women had been seen at a launderette, had walked in single file, and had, say witnesses, no social skills.

lon5Adding more strangeness to the case are more than 200 love letters and poems written to a male neighbour by Rose Davies, who had been told she was adopted after her parents died in a fire. According to the London Daily Mail she said “I’m trapped like a fly in a spider’s web” and that Balakrishnan and Chandra had threatened to harm the neighbour if she had any contact with him.

Inspector Kevin Hyland, from the Metropolitan Police Human Trafficking Unit, says:

“This is the very early stages of a complicated and sensitive investigation. These women are highly traumatised, having been held in servitude for at least 30 years with no real exposure to the outside world, and, trying to find out exactly what has happened over three decades will understandably take some time. Our unit deals with many cases every year but has never unearthed such a staggering example of people held against their will for their whole life”.

Chances are that the case of the London slaves will get stranger still.


5 Responses to Suicide, Spooks, Sedition And The Strange Slaves Of London

  1. Max Myers says:

    So the perps, Aravindan Balakrishnan, 73, and his Tanzanian wife, Chandra, 67, will obviously stay in England and show up for trial.

  2. BJW Nashe says:

    A daughter of a WWII code-breaker? A Maoist commune? Invisible handcuffs? I’m thinking secret service mind control experiments…

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