Police halt suicide cult's last supper
Friday 09 January 1998
Members of the religious sect apparently planned to end their lives yesterday in the expectation that a spaceship would carry them away from the summit of Mt Teide, a volcano in Tenerife.
Heide Fittkau-Garthe, 56, from Berlin, had lived on the island for a decade and police had been investigating her followers, who were all Germans except one Spanish woman, for several months. The sect believed that the world was to end last night and that they would be transported to a new world.
Police picked up clothing, illustrations and documents from the followers, said to be middle-class men and women, including university graduates, aged between 20 and 60.
A government spokesman said the sect centred around the personality of their leader, who homed in on her followers personality weaknesses and induced them to pay up to pounds 300 to participate in meetings. Some members had apparently arrived in Tenerife in recent weeks after bidding farewell to their families "until the next world".
Police believe the sect is a splinter group of the Solar Temple suicide cult, whose followers have carried out mass suicides in Canada, France and Switzerland. Dr Fittkau-Garthe's disciples were staging a "last supper" at a private residence in the city of Santa Cruz de Tenerife before police intervened.
"Inducement to suicide is a crime, and for that reason the security forces had to avoid this evil thing," Antonio Lopez Ojeda, a Canaries government official, said yesterday. "It is not even clear which branch the sect is, whether it is the so-called Solar Temple cult or whether it is a splinter of this group ... many types are possible, based on the personality of the leader."
If convicted, Dr Fittkau-Garthe faces four to eight years in prison. In 1994, 48 members of the Order of the Solar Temple died in murder-suicides in Switzerland. Five more members died the same year in Canada, followed by 16 others in the French Alps in 1995 and five more in Canada last March. Thirty-nine members of the Heaven's Gate cult committed suicide last March at a mansion outside San Diego.
- 1 Edward Heath 'raped 12 year-old boy at Mayfair flat'
- 2 Sabrina Corgatelli: US hunting tourist posts picture of herself with dead giraffe after Cecil the lion outrage
- 3 Porn block in India: hundreds of sexual websites banned, internet outraged
- 4 Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale divorce: One of music industry’s most enduring couples announce split after 12 years of marriage
- 5 A-level results 2015: UK exam board OCR admits it 'estimates' hundreds of pupils' grades after papers 'go missing'
Edward Heath 'raped 12 year-old boy at Mayfair flat'
Sabrina Corgatelli: US hunting tourist posts picture of herself with dead giraffe after Cecil the lion outrage
'Gene drive': Scientists sound alarm over supercharged GM organisms which could spread in the wild and cause environmental disasters
Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale divorce: One of music industry’s most enduring couples announce split after 12 years of marriage
Labour leadership race: Jeremy Corbyn could be the next Prime Minister, says Ken Clarke
Is Britain really full up? Are migrants taking our jobs? Leading academic answers the most common anti-immigration claims
Calais Migrant Crisis: Deputy Mayor of Calais labels Cameron's use of 'swarm' as 'racist' and 'ignorant'
Chris Leslie: Jeremy Corbyn's anti-austerity agenda will harm the poor, says Labour shadow Chancellor
Landlords renting properties to illegal immigrants to face up to five years in prison
While we fixate on Calais, the Home Office is quietly deporting dozens of migrants on 'ghost flights'
Calais crisis: The seven claims made about the migrants - and the reality
£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to sell somethin...
£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a Junior Graphic Designer / ...
£15500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the South East's leading Motor Re...
£16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the South East's leading Motor Re...