'Guru' who conned French aristocrats out of £3.6m jailed

Fraudster convinced victims he was a  Nato masterspy sent to protect them

Paris

A French guru and conman convicted of brainwashing and robbing three generations of an aristocratic family has claimed British citizenship in an attempt to avoid jail.

Thierry Tilly, who was based for many years in Oxford, was sentenced to eight years in prison by a French court for kidnapping, psychological subjection, fraud and abuse of the vulnerable. The court in Bordeaux heard last month that Tilly, 48, persuaded 11 members of the De Védrines family –from a nonagenarian grandmother to her teenage grandchildren – that he was a Nato “masterspy” and financial genius who alone could save them from an international conspiracy.

Under his influence, the De Védrines liquidated more than €4.5m of family assets and barricaded themselves inside the family chateau at Monflanquin, near Bordeaux, for six years before taking menial jobs in Oxford. The presiding judge, Marie-Elisabeth Bancal, said that Tilly and his accomplice, Jacques Gonzalez, had organised a “Machiavellian plot”. Gonzalez was given a four-year jail sentence.

Tilly retorted: “You have convicted the French citizen but not the Englishman. We will see what European law says. This is only the beginning.” Tilly has not previously claimed British citizenship. Even if he does have a British passport, he remains subject to French law for crimes committed in France. During the trial last month, Tilly claimed to be descended from the Habsburgs and to be a former “hostage of freemasons”.

He insisted that the De Védrines family had acted willingly and that he had lost money while trying to help what he described as a “gang of resentful, greedy, provincial aristocrats”. Tilly’s lawyer asked for clemency on the grounds that he was “probably slightly deranged”.

Ghislaine Marchand (née De Védrines), 58, the first member of the family to meet Tilly, in 1999, told the court that he was a “liar and conman”.  “He kidnapped us by… turning us against one another,” she said. Tilly had claimed, she said, to “belong to a secret service above all the others, which could fix anything, and was in direct contact with the President of the United States”.

Tilly did not physically have to be present to control them, she said. He often gave orders by telephone or email. “We were scared of everyone and everything,” she said “We were so paranoid that we could no longer think straight.” In March 2009, Christine de Védrines, wife of Ghislaine’s brother, Charles-Henri, fled the group in Oxford and, with the help of local people and relatives, returned to France.

She told police that she had been tortured, physically and mentally, to force her to “unlock from her unconscious” the hiding place of a lost treasure.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Property Negotiator - OTE £20,000+

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family owned, independent ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'