May 8, 2017

Search continues for vanished Australian doomsday cult members, inquest set to begin

McDougall and her daughter Leela.
McDougall and her daughter Leela.
New Zealand Herald
May 8, 2017

A doomsday cult leader and his family who mysteriously disappeared in 2007 could be in New Zealand or Brazil, or dead, police say.

Assuming the stolen identity of Gary Feltham, cult leader Simon Kadwell controlled a devoted worldwide following of around 40 people from a rundown home in Nannup, Western Australia.

An inquest has been announced into the mysterious disappearance and "suspected deaths" of Kadwell, along with his girlfriend Chantelle McDougall, their six-year-old daughter Leela and friend, Tony Popic, 42.

Kadwell interacted with his following, "Truth Fellowship", through a chat room called "The Gateway" and taught from a book Servers of the Divine Plan which he had written himself.

Neighbour Bruce Blackburn said Kadwell was "off the planet" and "paranoid".

"He was always ranting and raving about them, to the point where he was breaking out in hives and his face looked as if it was about to burst, it was so red.

"He began burying a heap of magnets around the place because he believed they diverted these rays away from him."

McDougall's parents believe their daughter is alive and "hidden away".

"I think he's probably got them hiding somewhere while he is up to his usual tricks of getting money off people by scamming them over the internet with this cult stuff," Jim McDougall has previously said.

Local media reported Kadwell and McDougall often spoke of Rio, and left a note on their front door that read "Gone to Brazil" when they disappeared in 2007.

Police initially suspected the foursome headed to New Zealand and may have gone on to South America.

Four days after the disappearence there were reports Popic visited a backpackers in Perth but police were unable to confirm his identity.

"It's such a bizarre story and we have as little an idea of their whereabouts today as we did in 2007 when they disappeared," Detective Senior Sergeant Greg Balfour said.

"There's no evidence to suggest they are dead, just as there's no evidence to suggest they are alive.

"Remember, he successfully isolated Chantelle and Leela from their families so it's perfectly possible they are alive, living off the grid somewhere in Australia or overseas."

The inquest into the disappearance of Kadwell, Ms McDougall, Leela McDougall and Mr Popic will begin in December.

- NZ Herald

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