Cult leader Juliano Verbard jailed for prison escape by helicopter

The leader of a cult on the French Indian Ocean island of Réunion has been jailed for 13 years for making a dramatic prison escape in a helicopter that had been hijacked by three of his followers.

Radio France International reports

The court jailed 30-year-old Juliano Verbard along with his 27-year-old lover, Fabrice Michel, with whom he had contracted a civil union while in Domenjod prison, and Michel’s father, 54-year-old Jusmy.

The father and son received sentences of 10 and 13 years respectively.

One of the followers who had organised the escape received a 13-year sentence, the other two 10 years each.

Six women were found guilty of aiding the fugitives and given sentences of between six months suspended and eight years in jail.

UPI says

The escape took place in 2009, when Verbard was serving time for rape and sexual abuse of several young boys, one of whom Verbard kidnapped and named his successor.

Three of Verbard’s male followers hijacked the helicopter and forced the crew at gunpoint to fly it to the prison. Once at Domenjod prison, they let down a rope ladder, allowing Verbard and the Michels to climb aboard. They were then dropped off several hundred yards away from the prison where a van was waiting to take them away.

Verbard founded Coeur Douloureux et Immaculé de Marie (Painful and Immaculate Heart of Mary), in 2001 after saying he saw an apparition of the Virgin Mary. The cult is thought to have had about 40 followers.

In 2006 Verbard skipped bail just before he was to stand trial for molesting and raping a 13 year old boy, the son of devotees.

He was sentenced in absentia to 15 years in jail. A year later four members of his cult were charged with kidnapping. The had snatched 12 year old Alexandre Thelahire, whom they believed to be Verbard’s eventual successor. Taken from his home, the boy was forced to participate in a midnight mass with cult members before he was returned to his family the next morning.

RFI adds

At his trial Verbard admitted that he had lied when he claimed that the Virgin Mary appeared to him in visions and claimed to have cut all links with the cult’s several hundred members.

He had already been condemned to terms of 18 and nine years for statutory rape of the sons of two of his followers in 2010 and 2011.

Escaped cult leader Juliano Verbard re-arrested

Escaped cult leader Julian Verbard arrested

Police on the French Indian Ocean island of Reunion said they had arrested the paedophile leader of an outlawed sect who escaped from prison by helicopter last month.

Juliano Verbard, the 27-year-old founder of the outlawed Christian “Painful and Immaculate Heart of Mary” sect, was jailed for 15 years last year for raping two children.

He fled his jail on the island with two other prisoners thanks to the help of several accomplices, who took a helicopter crew hostage and forced the pilot to pick up the detainees from the prison courtyard.

“Five accomplices, including the four members of the group that set up the escape, have been arrested,” a police spokesman on the island said, adding that Verbard had been hiding in a house in the island’s capital, Saint-Denis.
[…]

– Source / Full Story: French police arrest escaped paedophile, Reuters, vai TV New Zealand, May 7, 2009 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

The official announcement of the recapture of Verbard, 27, came from Paris where secretary of state for overseas affairs Yves Jego hailed “the remarkable work of the police on the island of Reunion which allowed the recapture of Juliano Verbard.”

Five of Verbard’s accomplices, including three who hijacked the helicopter, were captured in the raid, which was broadcast live on television.

– Source / Full Story: Child rapist cult leader recaptured, AFP, May 7, 2009 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

Police said 50 officers were involved in the operation, AFP news agency reported.

Verbard, the leader of the pseudo-religious cult, the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, was jailed in 2008 for rape and sex attacks on children, and the other two for their roles in a kidnap.

– Source / Full Story: Escaped cult leader re-captured, BBC, May 7, 2009 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

Elsewhere AFP reports that 1,800 police men had been searching the island for Verbard and his accomplishes.

Last Saturday, six followers of the guru, in custody on the day of the escape, were indicted, including five in custody for complicity to escape.

Cult leader Juliano Verbard escapes from jail in hijacked helicopter

Juliano Verbard Three armed men hijacked a tourist helicopter on Monday and used it to free a cult leader and two of his followers from a prison on the French island of Reunion, in the Indian Ocean.

Freed were cult leader Juliano Verbard, and two of his followers: Verbard’s lover Fabrice Michel, and Jismy Michel, Fabrice’s father.

Juliano Verbard was serving a 15-year term for rapes and sex assaults on children. [Read more...]