The Malaysian woman who was one of three allegedly held captive by a Maoist couple in London for 30 years was not “enslaved”, her sister said on Monday after visiting her.
Kamar Mahtum said after returning to Malaysia that her long-lost sister Siti Aishah Abdul Wahab, 69, looked “healthier than me” despite reports of sordid modern-day slavery that have shocked Britain.
“No, she can’t be, she looked so well,” the 73-year-old said when asked during a telephone interview if Siti Aishah had been a slave at the Maoist “collective”.
Kamar, who met with Siti Aishah for 90 minutes after being taken by car to a location six hours from London on Thursday night – she believes it to be around Manchester – said her sister was physically, mentally and emotionally fine.
“She promised to return to Malaysia after the investigations were complete, saying it would take about nine months,” she said from her home in southern Malaysia.
Siti Aishah came to Britain as a high-flying student in around 1968 but turned her back on her family after joining a radical left wing group.
The other women allegedly held by the couple are believed to be the daughter of a second world war code-breaker who also became a communist, and a 30-year-old who has spent her entire life inside the Maoist “collective”.
British police had for the first time last Wednesday interviewed the three women, as fresh details of their secretive commune emerged.
An Indian-born man and his Tanzanian wife – believed to have led a small Marxist splinter group in the 1970s – were arrested last week over accusations of keeping the women as “slaves” in a south London flat.
The women were “freed” on October 25 after one contacted a charity that usually deals with forced marriage and honour-based violence.
Their alleged captors, named by media as 73-year-old Aravindan Balakrishnan and his 67-year-old wife Chanda, have been freed on bail pending further investigations.
Kamar said Siti Aishah seemed to have no regrets about joining the “sect” but “was probably influenced by the man’s hypnotic power”, referring to Aravindan.
“I asked if she still prays, and Aishah said she has a Koran,” she said.
Police believe the women were brainwashed and possibly beaten, but not sexually abused.
It appears that they were occasionally allowed out of the house, and detectives are working to understand the “invisible handcuffs” that were used to control them.