New finds suggest ritual massacres

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THE circumstances of the discovery of the bodies of a British woman, her husband and their baby son have convinced police that they are dealing with a series of ritualistic massacres, as they investigate the deaths of members of the Order of the Solar Temple cult.

The bodies of Nikki Robinson Dutoit, 30, her husband, Toni, and three-month-old Christopher Emmanuel were found in an alcove adjacent to the burned-out chalet in Morin Heights, north of Montreal, where two, so-far unidentified, corpses were found earlier this week.

Police said the three victims, whose bodies were discovered on Thursday, had been stabbed to death before the house in which they were found was burned down on Tuesday. A police spokesman said a bloody knife was found near the bodies. The two adult bodies were covered in blood, bound together head-to-toe and wrapped in a carpet and blanket. The baby's head had also been covered with a plastic bag and his body was stuffed behind a water heater.

There is mounting evidence that the killings and possible suicides of 53 cult followers and children were triggered by disputes over money and over loyalty to the cult's domineering and manipulative leaders. Ranks in the cult were indicated by the colour of members' capes, which were, in turn, determined by how much money they had donated. One of the Canadians who died in Switzerland is believed to have gone there with a large amount of money, hoping to buy her husband out of the sect.

Quebec police believe that whoever murdered the Dutoit family may also have taken the couple's car to Mirabel, Montreal's international airport, about 30 miles from where the bodies were found. They speculate that the killers could have flown on to Switzerland on Tuesday, on the eve of the killings of 48 people there.

The British woman's mother, Jill Robinson, who lives in East Sussex, issued a statement yesterday saying that 'the whole family are shocked and devastated by the events of the past few days.'

A rented car, used by the Robinson-Dutoit family, has since been found at Montreal's main international airport, leading to speculation that their killer went on to Switzerland, where the worst carnage occurred. Swiss police have so far discovered the bodies of 48 people. At least 20 of them were killed by gunfire and others were possibly poisoned. Many of the victims had plastic bags tied over their heads, but did not appear to have suffocated.

From originally assuming that the cult deaths were a bizarre act of mass suicide by cult members driven by tales of an imminent apocalypse, police now believe that they are dealing with ritualistic massacres, carefully planned and executed by the cult's missing leaders.

International warrants were issued through Interpol yesterday for the arrest of Luc Jouret, 46, and Joseph di Mambro, 71, who was known to members as 'Napoleon' or 'the dictator'.

The remains of Mr di Mambro's wife, Jocelyne, have been found at one of the Swiss sites. Another senior member of the cult, Camille Pilet, has handed herself over to the police for protection. Ms Pilet's testimony should prove vital in unravelling the mystery behind the murders and possible suicides of so many of the cult's followers.

It has now emerged that Mr Jouret and Mr di Mambro were seen on Tuesday afternoon, shortly before the tragedy occurred. Shopkeepers have told the police that Mr Jouret was in the ski resort of Granges-sur-Salvan, in southern Switzerland, where he bought a roll of grey bin-liners. Similar bin bags were filled with petrol to distroy the cult's chalets and a farm in the village of Cheiry.

Firemen were called to both villages to blazes that erupted shortly after midnight on Tuesday. The victims, of Canadian, French and Swiss nationality, had all been dead for several hours before the buildings burst into flames, in explosions triggered by elaborate timing devices, connected to bags and drums filled with petrol.

In Cheiry, a magistrate said that post-mortems had shown that some of the victims received lethal injections. Many bodies also had bullet wounds to the head. In Granges-sur-Salvan there were no signs of violence. Investigators said that they believed all the 25 there died from poisoning.

The two sect leaders were seen four days before the deaths in a restaurant in Veytaux, near Montreux. They were regulars and were in a group of nine which, as usual, first held a meeting in a conference room in the Hotel Bonivard. The bill was paid by one of the guests with a credit card in the name of Camille Pilet, the woman now in police protection.

(Photograph omitted)