Maoist cult leader Aravindan Balakrishnan jailed for 23 years

Maoist cult leader Aravindan Balakrishnan jailed for 23 years
Katy Morgan-Davies. Pictures: PA

A Maoist cult leader who raped two of his followers and kept his daughter a “slave” for 30 years has been jailed for 23 years.

Aravindan Balakrishnan (pictured), 75, known as Comrade Bala, brainwashed his cult into thinking he had God-like powers and could read their minds, and subjected them to decades of abuse.

Maoist cult leader Aravindan Balakrishnan jailed for 23 years

His daughter Katy Morgan-Davies, 33, formerly known in the press as Fran, has bravely waived her right to anonymity to speak out about the years of psychological and physical bullying she endured at her father’s hands.

She said: “It was horrible, so dehumanising and degrading. I felt like a caged bird with clipped wings.”

Balakrishnan, of Enfield, north London, was impassive as he was sentenced at London’s Southwark Crown Court.

'I've been a non-person all my life'

Katy Morgan-Davies was beaten and psychologically abused by her father, who brainwashed his followers into thinking he was God-like.

Banned from going to school or mixing with other children, her life was restricted to the walls of the south London commune where she and Balakrishnan’s small band of female acolytes were manipulated and terrorised into following his every command.

In a courageous move, Miss Morgan-Davies has decided to waive her legal right to anonymity and reveal her true identity – a step she thinks is important “to retrieve the identity the cult tried to steal from me”.

She said: “I’ve been a non-person all my life and now is my chance to be myself.”

And she has chosen a new name for this new chapter of her life – Katy Morgan-Davies.

It is a name that reconnects her to her mother’s family, who she was not allowed to meet growing up. But it is also a homage to pop star Katy Perry, whose song Roar talks of empowerment and finding your own voice.

As a child, Miss Morgan-Davies did not go to school, never saw a doctor or went to a friend’s house to play.

She was born into the Workers’ Institute of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought - a tiny far-left sect run with an iron fist by Balakrishnan, who idolised Joseph Stalin, Saddam Hussein and Chairman Mao – and wanted to be “bigger than all of them”.

Recalling life in the cult, she said: “It was horrible, so dehumanising and degrading. I felt like a caged bird with clipped wings.”

Strictly banned from leaving the commune unaccompanied, and rarely even allowed out into the garden to play, she spent her days being “taught” about Balakrishnan’s central role in the world and singing songs eulogising him.

“My earliest memories was that he is God, he is immortal, he knows everything and anybody who goes against him will die,” she said.

Miss Morgan-Davies thinks Balakrishnan created his bizarre world because “he is a narcissist and a psychopath”.

He ensured his followers did not step out of line by inventing an invisible war machine called Jackie which he said could kill and trigger natural disasters if anyone flouted his will.

She said: “Everybody else worshipping him, loving him, praising him, obeying him – he was just obsessed about control.

“And the people he looked up to were people like Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot and Saddam Hussein – you couldn’t criticise them either in the house. They were his Gods and his heroes. These were the sort of people he wanted to emulate.”

While Balakrishnan idolised these Communist tyrants, he also wanted to be superior to them – first among dictators.

Miss Morgan-Davies said: “Sometimes he would say he didn’t like Mao, because he saw Mao as a rival to him as well.

“So he sort of followed them and wanted to be like them, but at the same time he didn’t want them to be worshipped, except as secondary to him. (He wanted to be) bigger than all of them.”

She said their tiny cult was seen as a “pilot unit” where Balakrishnan could learn “how best to control people” before he would take over the world.

But the thought this is what the future held in store made her suicidal.

“I used to think ’God, if the whole world is going to be like this, what way out is there? How am I going to live? I cannot live in this’,” she said.

“So I used to think that the best way would be to die. That would be the only way to get out of his control, because he can read your mind and everything - where can you escape from him? And the only way is to die. So that is when I used to feel suicidal.”

Life inside the commune was one of mind-numbing boredom and servitude for the handful of women in it. They cooked and cleaned for Balakrishnan, spied and informed on each other to gain his favour, and two were sexually abused “by appointment”.

Miss Morgan-Davies said: “In a way all of us were like slaves – mentally as well – to his control for so many years, and some still are.”

It was also a world of violence. Growing up, Miss Morgan-Davies was not told Balakrishnan was her father and her mother was Sian Davies, one of his followers.

They never shared a hug or a kiss, and she knew her mother simply as “Comrade Sian”.

On Christmas Eve in 1996, Miss Davies plunged out of the window of the commune’s house in south London, and died of her injuries several months later in hospital.

That night her daughter heard screaming and shouting and saw her mother lying in a pool of blood below the bathroom window pleading with Balakrishnan to “kill me”.

Miss Morgan-Davies said that while they were both in the cult she loathed her mother because “she went out of her way to prove she is not close to me” by being “extra nasty”.

But after she discovered for certain the truth of their relationship, she was haunted by dreams about her.

“I remember I used to dream about her a lot, and I used to wake up crying”, she said. “I used to dream that I said ’I know you are my mum’.

“Or I would say ’I didn’t know you were my mum, nice to meet you as my mum’. Those sorts of things. I would hug her – things she never used to do in real life. Then I would wake up and I would cry.”

Starved of love and companionship in her real life, Miss Morgan-Davies would recoil into fantasy or try to befriend whatever she could.

She said: “There were rats and mice around, I used to hear them scuttling under the floor. I would think ’Oh, what a nice sound they make’.

“And so I would take a bit of bread and hope that the mouse would come up, but they never did. But they did come into the kitchen, I used to sit there and look at them and hope that I could pet them.

“They would come and look and I used to think they were smiling at me almost, telling me everything would be alright.”

 Katy Morgan-Davies, pictured in shadow when she first spoke out. Pictures: PA
Katy Morgan-Davies, pictured in shadow when she first spoke out. Pictures: PA

As she got older she found solace in the Harry Potter and Lord Of The Rings series – some of the only books Balakrishnan let her read as he thought he was like the heroes in them.

“But as I began to read them I saw that he is more like the bad guy – like the Dark Lord,” his daughter said. “And that he wanted us to be like the Death Eaters, Voldemort’s Death Eaters and Sauron’s Black Riders.”

She said the David vs Goliath-style stories taught her to keep hoping because good can triumph.

Miss Morgan-Davies first plucked up the courage to flee the commune in 2005 and ended up at a police station, but was persuaded to return home because it was a bank holiday.

She believed Balakrishnan had agreed to give her more freedom, but when she got back the violence escalated and he branded her a “Fascist agent”.

Katy's bedroom
Katy's bedroom

Asked what it was like to taste freedom but return to servitude, she said: “That is why I felt like a caged bird with clipped wings – because I felt that even if I am let free from the cage I can’t fly.”

But eight years later, in 2013, she managed to escape for good and found support with the Palm Cove Society, which tackles modern slavery.

With the help of its founders Yvonne and Gerard Hall, she is carving out a new life for herself in Leeds, where she has joined the Labour Party and regularly goes canvassing.

Miss Morgan-Davies, who has a very high IQ but had no formal education, is also at college studying English and maths, and is in regular contact with her mother’s cousin.

And denied an identity and family for so long, she has decided her name will now be Katy Morgan-Davies. All three of these names are family names on her mother’s side, but her first name is also inspired by Katy Perry.

She said: “You know Katy Perry and the song Roar? I love that song. It is about not being put down, coming back, standing up for yourself.”

She is enjoying her first years as a free woman and finds joy in the simple things.

“Like having my own key and being able to come and go as I please, and making friends with people”, Miss Morgan-Davies said.

“Even small things like dying my hair or piercing my ears or having an alcoholic drink – something just small might not mean much to most people but for me does, just having that choice.”

While she says it is too early to know exactly what she hopes to do in the future, she knows she wants to help people and stop anyone feeling as sad and lonely as she did.

And she hopes that by coming forward, others will be inspired to speak out about the oppression they suffer.

Magnanimously she has forgiven her father and hopes that one day, when he has faced up to his crimes, they can talk.

She said: “I don’t wish for him to suffer, but yes I want him to recognise what he did was wrong. I would like to reconcile with him in the future, if that is possible. But I can’t make him do that if that’s not what he wants to do, but the door is always open.”

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