Latest twist in Maoist cult tale

John Herivel, wartime codebreaker and father of one of the three ‘slaves’ freed from a Maoist sect

The Daily Telegraph has revealed that one of the three alleged “slaves” freed from a Maoist political cult is the daughter of a famous wartime codebreaker at Bletchley Park.

Belfast-born Josephine Herivel, now 59, is said to have contacted the Freedom Charity last month stating that she and two other women – 30 year old Rosie Davies and 69 year old Aishah Wahab – were being held against their will.  The charity contacted the police, who raided a house in Peckford Place, south London.

On Sunday evening Heritage and Destiny revealed that the two cult leaders arrested in the case are Aravinda Balakrishnan and his wife Chanda: we detailed Balakrishnan’s former role in the Communist Party of England (Marxist-Leninist), a violent Maoist group with links to the terrorist Irish National Liberation Army. In 1974 ‘Comrade Bala’, as he was known to his fellow Marxists, broke away from the CPE (M-L) and established the Workers’ Institute of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse-Tung Thought, based at a commune on Acre Lane, Brixton which he styled the Mao Memorial Centre.

London newspapers later confirmed our identification, and the H&D office has been contacted by several journalists seeking additional information.

Many years ago conspiracy theories circulated on the political fringe about Balakrishnan, speculating as to why the British authorities had taken such a close interest in his tiny sect.  In December 1981 his former comrade Cornelius Cardew was killed in a hit and run accident, which fuelled further conspiracy theories. Cardew had remained loyal to the CPE (M-L), which changed its name to the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist) in 1979.

On Christmas Eve 1996 one of Comrade Bala’s followers, Sian Davies, fell from a first floor window at another of the commune’s South London properties in Herne Hill. She died of her injuries a few months later, and her then-teenage daughter Rosie (now 30) is one of the three alleged “slaves” freed last month.

We can now be sure that MI5 and Scotland Yard’s Special Branch had been keeping a particularly close eye on Comrade Bala’s group since the 1970s, not only because of its involvement in “anti-fascist” violence and ties to INLA terrorists, but because cult member Josephine Herivel (who accompanied Balakrishnan to the 1997 inquest into Sian Davies’s death) was the daughter of John Herivel, one of the legends of British secret intelligence history.

John Herivel died in 2011 aged 92. He had been recuited from Cambridge in January 1940 to join the top secret codebreakers based at Bletchley Park where he was part of the team at ‘Hut 6’, tasked with decyphering versions of the Enigma code used by the German Army and Air Force.

Herivel’s decisive contribution in May 1940 – later known as the ‘Herivel tip’ – enabled the codebreakers to discover each day’s key to the Luftwaffe’s Enigma messages. Later in the war he worked as assistant to the Cambridge mathematician Max Newman, who was in charge of Bletchley’s unit on mechanised codebreaking which developed Colossus – the world’s first programmable computer.

When his daughter Josephine joined Balakrishnan’s cult in the mid-1970s, almost everything related to Bletchley remained top secret – so the security and intelligence services would have been intensely concerned. If and when the “slavery” case comes to trial next year, Whitehall’s files on the group might come under an unwelcome spotlight. Coincidentally Lord Harris of Haringey, chairman of trustees at the Freedom Charity which instigated last month’s police raid, is the Home Office representative on the Metropolitan Police Authority responsible for oversight of security matters and counterterrorism at the Met.

Video footage of Josephine Herivel from the time of the 1997 Sian Davies inquest can be seen at ITN’s website. A full analysis of the Balakrishnan saga will appear in the January edition of Heritage and Destiny, available from late December.


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