Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.


Heaven's Gate member found dead

A man believed to have been member of the Heaven's Gate cult was found dead at a California hotel yesterday.

Another apparent cult member survived an apparent suicide attempt and was hospitalised after the authorities rushed him to a local hotel, San Diego police said.

The CNN cable television network reported that it had received a videotape from the two which was similar to one sent out before the mass suicide of 39 cult members on 24 March.

One was a former member of the cult and the husband of a woman who had died then.

They were found at a Holiday Inn, near the site of the earlier deaths, in Rancho Santa Fe, north of San Diego.

Marshall Herff Applewhite, a former opera singer, died in a luxury mansion outside San Diego with 38 cult followers, aged 24 to 72.

They died, dressed in identical uniforms, after eating a mixture of alcohol and the drug phenobarbitol with apple sauce, and having broadcast their beliefs on a World Wide Web site.

Each of them made video statements, saying that they had left their earthly "vehicles" in order to join a spaceship which was flying in the wake of the Hale-Bopp comet.

"Planet earth is about to be recycled," Mr Applewhite had warned. "The only chance to evacuate is to leave with us."

The two men apparently wanted to catch up with Mr Applewhite and his followers. One of the men said he hoped he had "not missed the bus", CNN reported.

The network said it would not broadcast the tape until their identities were confirmed.

A computer designer, Richard Ford, known as "Rio D'Angelo" in the cult, discovered his fellow members' bodies and had been billed as Heaven's Gate last survivor.

He capitalised on his position to sell the television and film rights to his story.

In an earlier suicide bid, on 1 April, a 58-year-old recluse was found dead in his home in a remote mountain canyon in northern California after committing suicide. He had left a note indicating he believed that he would also join the dead Heaven's Gate cult members.

The "Heaven's Gate" cult helped to design computer web pages.