Thierry Tilly, an Oxford-based Frenchman, has been arrested over allegations that he kidnapped, tortured and brainwashed several generations of an aristocratic family into giving up their fortune.
Thierry Tilly, 45, allegedly posed as a secret agent to convince the rich and highly educated De Védrines family that they were the lost descendants of an ancient society called L’Equilibre du Monde (The Balance of the World), and that he had “superhuman powers” to help them reclaim their illustrious past and its “limitless treasure”.
Eleven members of the De Védrines family, headed by 88-year-old matriarch Guillemette, severed ties with relatives and friends and barricaded themselves in their chateau near Bordeaux for five years after meeting Mr Tilly in the late 90s. They went on to sold off three million euros (£2.7 million) worth of furniture, jewellery and properties including the family seat.
On Tuesday, his alleged victims played down the claims of abuse, saying Mr Tilly was simply a “good family friend”.
Three years ago, the group moved to Oxford and lived various suburban homes, several of which they failed to pay rent on and were taken to the small claims courts.