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Doomsday sect leaves a legacy of destruction

THE Order of the Solar Temple, the sect responsible for 50 deaths in Switzerland and Canada, came under intense scrutiny last year after it infiltrated Hydro-Quebec, an electrical power company in Quebec. Police in Quebec also investigated a possible connection between the sect and a string of bombings of transmission towers at Hydro-Quebec this year. However, no charges were brought.

Canadian police yesterday established a direct link between the deaths in Switzerland and a fire that killed two people in Morin Heights, north of Montreal. They said that the same type of incendiary device was used to set fire to the buildings in Switzerland and the Quebec duplex (semi-detached houses), owned by Luc Jouret, the founder of the Temple.

Police have not been able to discover the identity of the two charred bodies, a man and a woman, found at the site. But they do not believe that either is Mr Jouret. He is believed to have fled to Switzerland in 1993, after he was found guilty of conspiracy and possession of prohibited weapons.

He was fined dollars 1,000 (pounds 510) and given a conditional discharge and has not been seen in Canada since. His lawyer said yesterday that he had not seen Mr Jouret since the trial 15 months ago.

Mr Jouret and his sect came to the attention of the authorities after they advocated stockpiling arms, including prohibited weapons such as machine-guns, in preparation for the end of the world. Mr Jouret, who would now be 46 according to court records, said that he was a doctor of homeopathic medicine. He originally emigrated to Canada from Switzerland.

An institution associated with the sect was called The Academy for Research and Knowledge of Advanced Science, which held seminars and training sessions. It gained notoriety in Quebec in March last year when two members were arrested and charged with conspiracy to procure guns with silencers.

It was then discovered that one of the accused, Jean-Pierre Vinet, was a project manager for Hydro-Quebec, a large, publicly-owned utility with hundreds of vulnerable generating and transmission stations.

An investigation showed that at least eight Hydro-Quebec employees were members of the sect. An additional 22 attended seminars on management techniques given by Mr Jouret, often paid for by the company.

A Hydro-Quebec investigation found that Mr Jouret was the main speaker at seven conferences that were held on such topics as 'The Meaning of Life', 'Self-Realisation' and 'Management and the Manager's Health'.

At Morin Heights, the bodies were found in the half of the building registered in the name of Joseph Di Mambro, secretary of a company called Projects Samassamox, and Jocelyne Duplessis. Members of the Solar Temple cult used to hold meetings in the offices of Projects Samassamox.

Police and fire investigators also said that there appeared to have been doors installed between the two halves of the house. Neighbours said that they had not seen anyone since a police raid last year.