Oxford-based ‘guru’ is charged with kidnapping and torture
Three generations of an aristocratic French family have “awoken” from the spell of an Oxford-based guru who is accused of spinning a lurid fantasy to rob them of their fortune.
At least eight members of the VÃ©drines family, aged between 96 and 24, are now said to be ready to give evidence against Thierry Tilly, a self-proclaimed financial genius, master spy and agent of an age-old secret order.
However, six of the VÃ©drines clan, including the 96-year-old matriarch, have insisted on remaining in Britain for now…
Since his arrest in Switzerland in October, Mr Tilly, 44, has been in a prison in Bordeaux facing possible charges of kidnapping and torture.
He is said to have convinced the VÃ©drines family — part of the Protestant nobility of south-west France for 300 years — that they belonged to an ancient order called L’Equilibre du Monde (“the balance of the world”) which has the mission of defending humanity from “supreme evil”. From September 2001, 11 of the VÃ©drines barricaded themselves into the family chateau 100 miles east of Bordeaux, some abandoning successful careers.
Despite evidence that a ‚¬5m (Â£4.5m) family fortune was being transferred to Mr Tilly, the French police could do nothing until the alleged victims made a formal complaint.
The arrested guru’s spell was finally broken after “exit counselling” by a psychologist and a Bordeaux-based lawyer and anti-sect campaigner, Daniel Picotin.
After severing ties with friends, 11 family members barricaded themselves in their French chateau near Bordeaux for five years in 2001 before moving to Oxford.
They are alleged to have sold off an estimated Â£3.5 million in property, jewellery and other family belongings to fund Mr Tilly, who was arrested in October in Switzerland over claims he kidnapped, tortured and brainwashed several family members.
The family is said to be “financially ruined”.
Even after Mr Tilly’s arrest, concerned relatives claimed the seven had remained under his “remote” power — even when he was not physically present.
Mr Tilly — described by one escaped member as “the Leonardo da Vinci of mental manipulation” — was arrested following a complaint by Christine de VÃ©drines, 59, who left Oxford last March. She said she had suffered violent abuse at the hands of her family and Mr Tilly.
Daniel Picotin, a lawyer acting for the freed family members, mounted two “exit counselling” commando operations — one in November, another this month — to secure their return With him were a psychoanalyst, a criminologist and a “special chauffeur”.
“We ‘woke up’ the seven members of this families,” he said. The first to go back was Guillaume, Christine’s 32-year old son. Last week, his father, Charles-Henri, 51, returned to France, where he recounted his alleged ordeal to an investigating magistrate.