'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
  • Get to the point
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: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing
The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower