Sect leader's daughter is cleared of blackmail

THE TEENAGE daughter of the leader of a sect that is alleged to have locked up, beaten and sexually abused child members, was cleared of conspiring to blackmail her father yesterday.

After her acquittal by a jury at the Old Bailey in London, Rebecca Teacher, 18, said that she would be asking the police to investigate The Teachers, set up by her father Kevin O'Byrne, 55. She said: 'The trial has been an ordeal and I want to try and put my life together now.'

Her stepfather William Webb, 43, was also found not guilty. The defendants, both from Barnet, north London, had denied conspiring to blackmail Mr O'Byrne, who styles himself 'Kevin of the Teachers'.

The court was told that Mr O'Byrne received telephone calls from the defendants last year demanding between pounds 40,000 and pounds 60,000. They threatened to expose the sect's activities to newspapers if he did not pay up.

Mr Webb, a laser consultant, and Miss Teacher admitted demanding the money, but said it was to compensate her for years of suffering. She made the calls after her efforts to sue her father and her attempts to alert the authorities to her plight failed.

Mr O'Byrne jointly founded the sect in 1972. The court was told that he believed incest should no longer be a crime because the 'genetic difficulties' that it might cause could be avoided through contraception.

The court was also told that children were beaten, whipped, locked up for days without food and made to look after the animals at The Teachers' remote farmhouse commune near Bangor, North Wales.

But David Bate, for the prosecution, said that although the sect was 'weird and bizarre' it was not on trial. The issue was not whether the allegations of abuse were true, but whether the blackmail demands were warranted.

Miss Teacher was born into the sect and the court was told that she was beaten and sexually abused until her mother and Mr Webb left the group when she was aged 11. She was one of at least 12 children fathered by Mr O'Byrne with six women. She said yesterday: 'I did this not just for myself but for the other children.'

Mr O'Byrne did not give evidence. His absence was described by Judge Clive Tayler as being like 'Hamlet without the Prince'.

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