Cult leader died in Swiss fire

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The Independent Online
POLICE have identified the remains of Luc Jouret, the charismatic guru of the Order of the Solar Temple, among the charred bodies found in a Swiss chalet last week.

The discovery that Jouret died in the inferno has clarified the sequence of events leading to the murder or suicide of 53 cult followers in Switzerland and Canada. It also closes an international manhunt for the cult leaders, who were thought to have absconded with large amounts of the cult's money after organising the mass suicide and killing those who refused to die willingly. It now appears that a split between the cult's Canadian and Swiss branches, combined with bitter infighting between rival grand masters, triggered a crisis. Fear of the cult's demise, rather than greed, drove the inner circle to orchestrate the deaths.

On 28 September Robert Fallardeau, an official in the Canadian Ministry of Finance and Grand Master in Canada, travelled to Switzerland after confiding to a friend that he feared Jouret was about to split the order.

On 1 October, British-born Nikki Dutoit, her husband and their two-month-old son were murdered in a ski chalet near Montreal. Police suspect they were killed by a cult member, Joel Egger, 35, and his companion, Dominique Bellaton. Two other cult members committed suicide in Canada three days later, apparently on orders from the Swiss headquarters, and their bodies were destroyed in a fire in the chalet, started by a remote control.

On the same day as the Canadian blaze, fire broke out at a farmhouse in the Swiss village of Cheiry. Later 23 bodies were found. The gun used in their murder was discovered 90 minutes' drive away, where the remaining cult members died. In three chalets in Granges-sur-Salvan 25 charred bodies were found, including those of Jouret, Joseph di Mambro, the cult's overall leader, and its financier, Camille Pilet. Police believe those members who carried out the murders and oversaw the suicides at Cheiry then drove to the chalets for a final act of self-immolation.