Doomsday sect is linked to missing Australians

A doomsday sect, which urges its followers to prepare for the world’s imminent end and rebirth, has been linked to the disappearance of four people from the South-West town of Nannup nearly nine months ago.

Simon Kadwill, 45, his partner Chantelle McDougall, 27, their sixyear-old daughter Leela McDougall and friend Antonio Popic, 40, have not been seen or heard from, nor have they used their bank accounts, since leaving their rented Nannup home in July.

East Perth real estate agent Joe Popic said yesterday he feared that the disappearance of his brother and his friends was linked to their involvement in a sect based on a book called Servers of the Divine Plan.

Joe Popic said Mr Kadwill had introduced his brother to the book, which calls on “servers” from Earth and elsewhere to awaken and take up their positions before the world’s imminent end and rebirth.

Mr Kadwill had also tried unsuccessfully to recruit his brother as a “server”, Joe Popic said.

Since his brother’s disappearance, he had tried to find out more about the book and its followers, with limited success. He urged anyone with information to come forward, believing they could hold a key to the mystery. He said of the missing group: “They are the type of people that it wouldn’t be out of the question if they’re living on a commune somewhere and don’t want to be found. But it’s very concerning and we just want to know if they’re safe and well.

“There is nothing wrong with being alternative but I think they’re involved on a deeper level.

“You sort of hear of all these cult things and Waco, Texas, and people trying to top themselves and all this sort of stuff, but you would hope they wouldn’t do that.”

Missing persons unit Acting Sgt Fiona Caporn said police had been unable to find any group in WA that followed the Servers of the Divine Plan or any link between the book and the disappearance of the group.

There was also nothing to suggest foul play.

Acting Sgt Caporn said police understood the missing people had kept to themselves in Nannup but she was reluctant to further discuss their lifestyle or whether they were part of a sect.

Police initially had said they were searching only for Antonio Popic, Ms McDougall and Leela, who had been reported missing by their families in October.

Yesterday they said they were also looking for Mr Kadwill, who is originally from England but has been in Australia for about seven years. He has not officially been reported missing and police have been unable to find any next of kin.

Ms McDougall’s father Jim, who lives near Wodonga in Victoria, said police had told him he could not discuss Mr Kadwill or whether his daughter had been involved in a sect or alternative teachings.

He said Chantelle had told his wife Cathy when they last spoke by telephone on July 14 that she and Leela were going on an extended holiday to South America

He said she sounded happy and excited and there had been no reason to believe otherwise until she failed to contact them again, which was out of character.

Police had told him there were no records of his daughter, granddaughter or friends leaving Australia.

The group left their house on a rural property about 10km south of Nannup after paying up what they owed and telling the real estate agent to keep their furniture. Mr Popic had been living in a caravan at the rear of the house.

The group took only their personal belongings.

The last known sighting of the group was when Chantelle sold her car at a car yard in Busselton about the same time.

Nannup residents who spoke to The West Australian yesterday said that although they had noticed the group’s absence in recent months, they had thought nothing of it, given the somewhat itinerant nature of the South-West town, even though the group had lived there for several years.

“As far as the people around town knowing their whereabouts and when and how they left, no one has any idea,” local police officer Sen. Const. Dean Bristow said.

Max Arvidson, who employed Ms McDougall at his fish and chip shop until a few months before her disappearance, said there had been talk in the community about the group’s alternative beliefs and that they might move because of Mr Kadwill’s concerns about high-tension electricity wires over their home.

Mr Arvidson described Ms McDougall as a diligent worker and lovely person and mother. He said Mr Kadwill always gave the impression that he was an alternative thinker.

“He behaved perhaps like you would expect (in the) 1960s, not the orange people but that sort of thing, very alternative, sometimes totally nonsensical,” he said.

A neighbour described the group as quiet people who kept to themselves. They had given some hints that they could be ready to move on by raising concerns about the new electricity lines and also giving away their chickens.

Ms McDougall was the only one in steady employment, working both at the fish and chip shop and teaching swimming to local children. She also home-schooled Leela.

Joe Popic said his brother had always led a nomadic life, which was why it had taken him so long to raise the alarm with police. He said it was out of character for him to be out of touch for so long.

“My brother is a very nice human being and he wouldn’t hurt a fly,” Joe Popic said.

“He’s a gentle sort of person and unfortunately, I believe, he just got involved with the wrong sort of people.”

Acting Sgt Caporn defended the delay between the group being reported missing in October and police going public for help this week.

“We’ve gone through our avenues of inquiry and gone through there, so this is the next stage of trying to appeal to the public,” she said.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday April 3, 2008.
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