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Hanged man had feared attack by Scientologists

A MAN found hanged last year believed his life was in danger because he had been trying to expose the 'evils' of the Scientology cult, which his former girlfriend had joined, a west London inquest heard yesterday.

Paul Burton, the Hammersmith coroner, recorded an open verdict on Khushroo Motivala, 38, who was found hanging from a loft beam at his home in Greenford, west London, last September.

Dr Burton was told that Mr Motivala had extensive debts and that he blamed the cult for the break-up of his relationship with Ruth Turk and for the loss of his three daughters. The couple had been fighting for custody of the children since Miss Turk had left with them six months earlier.

Lindon Lewis, a friend, said that Mr Motivala had told him stories about opponents of Scientology who had been attacked in the United States.

'He certainly feared for his life,' Mr Lewis said. 'He kept a big knife by the front door in case of an attack. He was always talking about exposing the evils of Scientology. We all thought he was a bit silly, but then he died.'

The inquest heard that Mr Motivala initially attended Scientology meetings with Miss Turk. Later he accused her of giving pounds 14,000 to cult members from the taxi and courier business which they jointly ran until financial problems forced them to sell it in early 1991.

Mr Lewis said that the Scientologists had issued a 'non-enturbulation' order against Mr Motivala, which forbade him from speaking to or going near Miss Turk. Another friend, Patrick Smith, said that Mr Motivala had been listed by the cult as a 'suppressive person', or enemy.

Miss Turk told the inquest that she had been a Scientologist for 10 years, but that her religion was not connected with her separation from Mr Motivala and that she had not taken any money out of the business.

She said that he had received a letter, possibly on the morning of his death, informing him of the date of the next custody hearing.

Mr Motivala's body was discovered by his girlfriend, Clare Bruce, about an hour after the departure of his children, who had spent the day with him. Dr Burton said that because Miss Bruce had intended to be home half an hour earlier, it was possible that he had expected to be found before he died.

Miss Bruce said that her boyfriend was living in a state of fear. 'He made a habit of harassing the Scientologists and he was always afraid that there would be an assault on him, because it was known to happen,' she said.

Ray Jenkins, who employed Mr Motivala as a driver, said that he would be astonished if he had taken his own life.

Mr Jenkins said: 'He had become obsessed about Scientology - to the extent of taking a lot of advice from an anti-Scientology adviser - and also about the custody of his children. To have done what he appears to have done would be to concede everything.'

Mr Lewis said that Mr Motivala was in very good spirits at the time he died, as his lawyers had just told him that he had a good chance of gaining a residency order in the custody proceedings. 'He was absolutely ecstatic, over the moon,' he said.