New lease of life for former sect’s HQ

Work to restore the former headquarters of a controversial religious sect has begun.

The owner of the building on Aberdeen’s Lang Stracht where Word of Life (International) held its bizarre religious sessions today said a £1 million scheme had started to transform the building.

Contractors have already embarked on the refurbishment and predict the new revamp could be complete by April.

It is planned to include a fitness suite, conservatory, bars, and games room and the pub below the hotel – Scott’s Bar – will also be given a makeover.

Owner Aran Handa said: “We are gutting the building completely. This means ripping out kitchens, bathrooms and bedrooms – pretty much everything.

He claimed: “The cult left the place in a poor state and it’s practically falling apart.

“There’s a real future in the hotel as it’s located at a prime site.”

Mr Handa said he intended lodging a planning application with Aberdeen City Council for a new roof next week.

Joiner Sandy Cooper has been involved in the operation from day one.

He claimed Word of Life had “left the place in a right mess.”

He said: “There’s lots of clearing up to be done before we start to do up the rooms.”

Many of the group’s belongings have been abandoned and are still inside the building.

These include bibles, books, videos, toys, computers, clothes, bikes, cassette tapes and children’s games.

Word of Life had been the occupant of the premises since 1991. Another group – Destiny House – later took over. Members were barred from the building by Mr Handa in August.

Word of Life ceased trading three years ago after amassing crippling debts of £160,000.

Destiny House set up soon after. Word of Life pastor Jim Addison was involved in both groups but denied they were linked or that they had done anything wrong.

However, some of Word of Life’s ex-members alleged they were taken in as children and pressurised into rituals of “Deliverance” and “Spiritual Warfare”, in which they had to vomit to rid the body of evil and simulated battling the devil with a sword.

They also claimed they were pressed into parting with cash to support the group and were not allowed to mix with non-members for fear of “contamination”.

The allegations have been strongly denied.

Mr Handa is still embroiled in a legal battle to claim a “substantial amount” of cash from the group which he claims they owe him for non payment of rent and other bills.

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