Cult victims were murdered, police say
Julian has written for the New Statesman, London Review of Books and openDemocracy among others. He is an experienced touring cyclist and writes frequently about world politics by bicycle. A book about his 2009 circumnavigation by bicycle is waiting to be published. He blogs at http://thisisnotforcharity.blogspot.com/
Friday 07 October 1994
Major Bernard Geiger, chief of police in the Valais canton, said the deaths in the village of Granges-sur-Salvan of 25 people, some of them children, could not be treated as suicide. Unless the body of Luc Jouret, 46, the sect leader, was identified among the remains, a Swiss judge would soon issue an international arrest warrant for him. Police have said they are looking for two people in connection with the case, but have not identified them.
Meanwhile, in a house in Morin Heights, Quebec, where earlier this week police found the remains of a couple linked to the deaths in Switzerland, two more bodies were found, burnt beyond recognition.
Jean-Francois Mayer, a Swiss experts on sects, said he received a letter yesterday 'from beyond the grave', claiming that the 48 members of the Order of the Sun Temple wanted to die because they had been persecuted in Quebec. The letter, unsigned and typed on a word processor, said the persecution had become 'unbearable'. It said the sect members would continue their work 'at other times and in other places'. The Geneva postmark on the envelope was smudged and the date of dispatch was illegible, according to a Swiss reporter who saw it.
The bodies in Granges were discovered early on Wednesday after firemen were called to three chalets occupied by the sect which had been set alight. At the same time, a further 23 bodies were found in a burnt-out farm in Cheiry, 50 miles away. The deaths, of Canadian, French and Swiss nationals, resembled those of the four in the house in Morin Heights owned by Mr Jouret, where a fire was also set off by a timing mechanism.
On Wednesday, Pierre Nidegger, Major Geiger's counterpart investigating the Cheiry deaths, said the case was one of mass suicide. Major Geiger said yesterday: 'My colleagues and I think this was a hasty conclusion. We do not exclude that a good number of the victims were murdered.' At a press conference, he used the term 'mass execution'.
Andrei Piller, an examining magistrate, said autopsies on some of the Cheiry victims showed they had been given a powerful drug by injection or intravenous drip before they died. A police officer said the attitudes of the bodies - one couple were lying side by side and holding hands, while a little girl was pressed against a little boy and 'almost smiling' - proved they had not been asphyxiated. 'Suffocation is very violent,' he said.
Police completed their search of the third chalet yesterday, but found no more bodies. Their attention turned to Geneva, where the sect has a third 'lodge'. Several people were taken into custody for questioning and their homes searched.
- 1 Tamir Rice: 12-year-old boy playing with fake gun dies after being shot by Ohio police
- 2 To help fuel their propaganda machine against the poor, our government has now decided to redefine the word 'welfare'
- 3 Bill Cosby: Isn’t it obvious why his accusers have stayed silent up until now?
- 4 Halle Berry takes ex-boyfriend Gabriel Aubry to court for allegedly trying to make daughter look less African-American
- 5 Isis propaganda image showing 'abuse of Muslim woman by soldiers' is actually taken from Hungarian porn film
Tamir Rice: 12-year-old boy playing with fake gun dies after being shot by Ohio police
Ferguson decision: Tea Party website mocks Michael Brown's family over T-shirt typo
Michael Brown shooting: Ten things we know – or know better – now the Ferguson grand jury's work is over
Isis propaganda image showing 'abuse of Muslim woman by soldiers' is actually taken from Hungarian porn film
Derren Brown on the disappointment of coming out: 'It’s not that people react badly to it – they really don't care'
Rochester by-election: Ukip gains second MP as Tory defector Mark Reckless holds seat
'Beast of Bolsover' Dennis Skinner takes Ukip MP Mark Reckless to task moments after he is sworn in
Rochester by-election: Labour MP Emily Thornberry resigns after posting white van and England flags tweet
The young are the new poor: Sharp increase in number of under-25s living in poverty, while over-65s are better off than ever
Revealed: How the world gets rich – from privatising British public services
Exclusive: UK approved £7m Israeli arms sales in six months before Gaza conflict
Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CHESHIRE MARKET TOWN - An exciting and rare o...
Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: NORTH HAMPSHIRE - SENIOR POSITION - An exciti...
£29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Gas Installation Engineer is required ...
£28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor is req...