The Indian-origin head of an extremist Maoist sect, accused of enslaving three women in his home here for 30 years, tried to convince his British followers he was Jesus Christ, a former activist has claimed.
Aravindan Balakrishnan, 73, known as Comrade Bala, is also accused of persuading his followers to hand over thousands of pounds for the revolutionary cause.
"He would say I am the Christ, follow me and people would. He was never violent, he was too self-controlled. But women abandoned their careers and their futures for him. They would have to put him and the collective before their families, Dudley Heslop, a community worker, told the Evening Standard.
The 59-year-old Heslop claims to have attended lectures by Balakrishnan's extreme left-wing group, Workers Institute of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought, for more than a year some four decades ago.
The details emerged as Scotland Yard began interviewing Balakrishnan's three victims yesterday, more than a month after they were freed from the south London commune.
Commander Steve Rodhouse, of the metropolitan police, said that the rescued women were still traumatised and officers faced a delicate task in interviewing them.
"The crucial issue for us is that clearly criminal offences have been committed. We know there has been physical violence, we know there has been emotional abuse. The true nature and frequency of that, we have yet to understand," he said.
He said 47 officers were now working on the case. Detectives are looking at files from the inquest of 44-year-old Sian Davies, who in 1997 fell from a window at a house occupied by the leftist group in Herne Hill.
A coroner described Davies' death as "mysterious". Davies was the mother of the youngest rescued woman, who is now 30. Her daughter's birth certificate shows that she was named Prem Maopinduzi Davies, but now calls herself Rosie.
Rosie told neighbours that she had been adopted by the group's leaders, Comrade Bala and his 67-year-old Tanzanian-origin wife, Chanda. The couple were arrested and bailed last week on suspicion of domestic servitude, false imprisonment, assault and immigration offences.
Josephine Herivel, 57, another rescued woman, is the daughter of an Irish codebreaker of the second world war from BletchleyPark, who cut off contact with her family after joining the group.
Authorities in Kuala Lumpur have now confirmed that the oldest of the rescued women is Siti Aishah Abdul Wahab, 69, who came to London in the early 1970s to study while wanted by the police in Malaysia for left-wing activities.
Her sister, Kamar Mautum, flew into Heathrow on Wednesday, hoping to meet up with her.