Cult ‘unlikely’ to have taken tourist

There was no evidence a cult that believed in severing ties to the past existed in Australia and had spirited away a British tourist, a cult expert said today.

However, Uniting Church minister David Milliken said missing tourist Melody O’Gara may have been taken in by the writings of a German new-age author who advocated shedding the past “like the skin of a snake”.

Ms O’Gara’s father Hugh said he had found a copy of Eckhart Tolle‘s book The Power of Now among his daughter’s belongings.

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The 28-year-old had also talked enthusiastically about the book with friends, he said.

Mr O’Gara arrived in Sydney this week to search for his daughter, who was last seen at a friend’s house in Woollahra at 8.30am (AEST) on October 24.

He said the book advocated “completely dumping the past and reinventing yourself” as a way forward.

According to the book, “there was no way of rediscovering yourself … if you didn’t discard the past,” he said.

“The gist of it is to discard the past and start again.”

Mr O’Gara said a cult based on Tolle’s philosophy may have taken his daughter in or helped her disappear.

But Rev Milliken said Ms O’Gara may simply have been a creative young woman who enjoyed exploring the philosophies espoused in Tolle’s book.

“But we have to know (if) there’s a group out there,” he said.

“That’s the missing piece of information. If we got the slightest information that there was some group that had taken these ideas and had run with them … and begin to place demands on people the whole scenario sits up.”

Mr O’Gara said he couldn’t accept theories that his daughter may have committed suicide.

He said her travel diary showed only hope and plans for the future and she had never shown any indication of being troubled.

Ms O’Gara’s handbag, containing personal items, was found by a security guard near a coastal walk in Sydney’s eastern suburbs at 1.30am on October 28.

New South Wales Police have dismissed two reported sightings of the missing tourist, based on insufficient information.

Mr O’Gara said he found it strange that no one had had any contact with his daughter.

“For my daughter not to be speaking on her mobile phone for more than 20 minutes is unthinkable,” he said.

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