A child will naturally crave comfort and cuddles — but what sort of warped world must a little girl inhabit when she seeks that solace from a bathroom tap? She was unable to cross the road or use basic appliances.
She had never seen a doctor, or visited a dentist. She had been brainwashed to believe her own behaviour was to blame for natural disasters such as earthquakes. It was even her fault, she had been led to think, that the Space Shuttle Challenger had exploded on its launch in Worse, she discovered only after her release that her father — the man responsible for the brainwashing — was actually the cult leader Aravindan Balakrishnan, a man now behind bars for his crimes.
Balakrishnan, who was jailed for 23 years earlier this year for rape and false imprisonment, ruled the mainly female collective with violence and psychological terror, including threatening members with what he told them was an electronic satellite warfare machine he called Jackie.
Although he would administer beatings and force his devotees to carry out sexual acts, he also convinced them that lightning would strike them dead if they stepped outside the house without his permission. Balakrishnan wanted someone to help him run the world. That this astonishing saga unfolded in the middle of London, in a seemingly ordinary home, only adds to the sense of utter disbelief.
One man, who lived in a house in Brixton, overlooking the flat where Katy was kept captive, breaks down in tears as he describes catching glimpses of Katy at the window.
The most chilling aspect is hearing Katy herself, now 33, describe how she came to be. She changed her name to Katy as soon as she was able. Her surname comes from her mother, a once brilliant student called Sian Davies who fell into the clutches of the cult in her early 20s, and never escaped.
Yet she died in , after falling from a window. Katy, who was just 14 at the time, believes she was trying to escape. When she finally escaped in , Katy had the social skills of a six year-old.
She was unable to cross the road or use basic appliances In the programme, Katy describes how she witnessed her mother being beaten by Bala, and held down by other cult members, the day before the fatal fall. There was a piece of cloth in her mouth. She had tried to run out. She was crying to escape. Children were raised by The Collective, and emotional bonds — to anyone — were discouraged. It was a brutal upbringing. Another woman who escaped the cult at the same time as Katy, Aishah Wahab, now 72, is also interviewed in the programme.
She describes being punished when she tried to comfort Katy when she had wet herself. It was such a relief. His worst enforcer was gone. Balakrishnan had been known as a Maoist activist in London as far back as the mid-Seventies. I thought he was great.
In the late Seventies they were investigated by the police, and the house they were living in South London was raided — but the suspicion at this time was that they were using illegal drugs, which was not the case. Quite why the women who joined his organisation as adults were so easily convinced by Bala is unclear, but somehow he convinced them that he was a god, who had to be obeyed.
He controlled how his followers lived, what they ate, what they wore. He tried to control what they thought — and largely succeeded. His most effective weapon? Jackie, the mind-machine, which he somehow convinced them was omnipotent. At his trial, it emerged that Balakrishnan had raped at least two of his followers.