Attack on Waco sect was `doomed to failure'

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The Independent Online
Zealous letters and phone calls from David Koresh's sectarian retreat recruited six members of a Manchester family and "brainwashed" them into believing they would find salvation in Waco, Texas. Zilla Henry, 55, and her children Vanessa, 19, Phillip, 22, Paulina, 24, Stephen, 26, and Diana, 28, died when fire engulfed the Branch Davidian sect headquarters at the end of a 51-day siege in April 1993.

Sam Henry, 58, husband and father of the deceased, yesterday told the inquest into the deaths of 23 British Waco residents of his futile attempts to save his family from the "satanic" influence of Koresh's messianic leadership.

The inquest also heard from a British detective that the raid by US special agents on the retreat was "doomed to failure''.

Mr Henry told the inquest that his family had left home in Old Trafford, Manchester, in April 1990, two years after his daughter Diana first spoke of the teachings of Koresh. Diana abandoned a graduate course to help build the Davidians' Mount Carmel centre in Waco.

Mr Henry visited her in 1989, travelling 1,500 miles by bus to be greeted with an invitation to join a bible class. "I was instinctively wary of David Koresh," Mr Henry told the Manchester coroner. Koresh became hysterical when Mr Henry resisted attemptsto recruit him."He threatened to whip me -he meant it," Mr Henry said.

He implored Diana to return with him to Britain. "Diana was crying because I was leaving. She had convinced herself that this man was the man of God - I was leaving my salvation."

Phillip was the next to go to Waco, encouraged by Diana. By March 1992, only Mr Henry was left in the family home. His wife had returned for a brief visit, but she and his children had changed dramatically.

Mr Henry said his wife refused to sleep with him, saying: "If the minds don't go together, then the bodies don't."

In his last call to his family, Mr Henry told Phillip: "You will realise your father is not the fool you all make him out to be. It was the last statement I made and I repeated it slowly." Five weeks later they were all dead.

Mr Henry, a Seventh Day Adventist, said he alerted US authorities to his fears of an impending tragedy at Waco comparable to the mass suicides of followers of Jim Jones. He told the inquest Koresh ordered one of his sons to be whipped.

Detective Chief Superintendent Albert Yates, of Greater Manchester police, told the inquest that many Britons among the 81 deaths at Waco were Seventh Day Adventists.

Investigations by Manchester detectives had concluded that the siege began with an ill-fated attempt by federal agents to raid the centre. In the subsequent gun battle in February 1993, six Branch Davidian members died while four officers were killed and28 were wounded.

"Police officers and those within the Mount Carmel centre were put at unnecessary risk with tragic consequences," Chief Supt Yates said. The British investigation found a confused command structure for the raid and subsequent siege. "I have never been able to find one person who was in charge of this incident," Chief Supt Yates said.

The inquest, expected to take five days, will hear criticism of US law enforcement agencies as well as evidence from a survivor.