29 Oct 2010

New fears for safety of missing internet cult family in Australia

The West Australian - May 31, 2009

A WA family linked to an internet cult who disappeared almost two years ago have not used their bank accounts or contacted relatives, raising fears they have been murdered.

Investigators initially believed that former internet cult leader Englishman Simon Kadwell, 46, Chantelle McDougall, 28, their daughter Leela, eight, and a friend Tony Popic, 42, may have sneaked out of the country to New Zealand before travelling to Rio Branco, a Brazilian city known for its religious cults.

But it is understood the WA Police missing person’s squad has uncovered no evidence that the group have left the country.

They were last seen on July 13, 2007, in Busselton, where they sold a car for $4000 to a local dealer and drove away in a waiting car.

Chantelle’s father, Jim McDougall, said yesterday that his fears for the wellbeing of his daughter and granddaughter were growing by the day.

With Leela featuring in a national missing children’s campaign that started on Monday, he said he still hoped that they would be found.

But he could not understand why Chantelle had not contacted him or his wife Kath in almost two years or how they could survive for such a long time without using their bank accounts.

The couple, who live in Wodonga, Victoria, have printed 1000 missing person’s flyers featuring photos of Chantelle and Leela and will set off in July on a three-month trip from Victoria to Cape York in Queensland, plastering the posters along the way.

“As every day goes by and I don’t hear from Chantelle it gets a bit harder to keep going,” Mr McDougall said.

“She was very close to both me and her mother so to not have heard from her for almost two years does make us very worried for her and Leela.

“It’s always in your mind that something may have happened (to them). I try not to think about it and just hope that we will hear from them soon.”

While living in WA, Mr Kadwell operated a secretive doomsday internet forum called The Gateway. He was called Si in the chat forum, which involved about 40 members around the world, who referred to themselves as “the Forecourt” — a religious reference to the place where believers wait for “judgment day”.

Ms McDougall’s parents have accused Mr Kadwell of brainwashing and seducing their daughter when, as a 17-year-old, she started babysitting for him and his partner, Deborah, in 1998.

The teenager had been introduced to Mr Kadwell and Deborah through friends in Victoria and would follow them to WA, Britain and back. By September 2000, Mr Kadwell, Deborah, their son Daniel and Ms McDougall were living in WA.

The same year, Ms McDougall, who was pregnant, and Mr Kadwell moved to a rented house in Floreat, where they continued to believe that the planet was on “red alert” and it was time for “awakening servers of the divine plan” to come forward.

Mr Popic moved in with them. With baby Leela, the couple and Mr Popic moved to Denmark. In 2004, the group shifted to Nannup, where Ms McDougall worked at a fish and chip shop and taught swimming, while Mr Popic lived in a caravan at the rear of their property.

Mr McDougall said yesterday that his daughter had told him during their last conversation on the day they disappeared that they were going to live in a small religious community on the outskirts of Rio Branco.

When the owner of their Nannup property went to the house in the days after they left the town, he found a note on the front door which read “Gone to Brazil”.

But given that police had no evidence that they had left the country, Mr McDougall believed that the Brazil trip was probably a cover story. “We were always worried that Simon would take off with Chantelle and Leela one day,” he said. “Simon seemed to have control over Chantelle and she would do whatever he said. All we want to know now is that they are OK and safe. We won’t give up hope.” Anyone with information about the group should call CrimeStoppers on 1800 333 000.

This article was found at:



  1. Fate of Australian doomsday internet cult family from Nannup, Western Australia remains mystery

    by Marnie O’Neill news.com.au DECEMBER 5, 20151

    THE second last time Bruce Blackburn set eyes on Simon Kadwill before he disappeared with his young family and their male lodger in 2007, he was surprised at Kadwill’s “calm and relaxed” mood.

    Surprised because on previous occasions when he’d encountered his neighbour, Kadwill had been a hot, paranoid mess, “ranting and raving” about electromagnetic fields and getting so worked up he’d break out in hives.

    Life next door to the strange Englishman had become difficult in recent months due to Kadwill’s extreme reaction to plans by utilities company Western Power to install a nearby power pole with a transformer.

    Kadwill, 45, moved into the rented property in tiny Nannup, Western Australia, with his much younger girlfriend Chantelle McDougall and the couple’s daughter Leela, six, about three years earlier. Their friend, 42-year-old Tony Popic lived in a caravan parked outside the house.

    Locals were familiar with Kadwill’s noisy tirades about some sort of conspiracy against Leela and himself by diverting electromagnetic waves towards their home, but put it down to eccentricity.

    What they didn’t know at the time was their strange but undeniably charismatic neighbour was operating an internet doomsday cult called the Truth Fellowship, which had roughly 40 followers worldwide.

    Devotees referred to themselves collectively as “The Forecourt” and would meet online in a forum called The Gateway where Kadwill went by the username “Si”. The group’s “Bible” was a book Kadwill had written called Servers of the Divine Plan which prophesied the birth of a new world of higher consciousness at the end of a 75,000-year cycle.

    Friends and acquaintances would later recall Kadwill’s habit of staying up all night on the internet hunched over his computer and then sleeping all day.

    Afer the family became the subject of a national, then international police search, his cult ties emerged along with the revelation that “Simon Kadwill” was actually Gary Feltham. According to investigators, Feltham had stolen the identity of a former associate in the 1990s.

    In a 2008 interview with The Australian, Blackburn’s anecdote about the transformer painted a picture of a Jeckyll and Hyde character plagued by irrational fears.

    “Simon was paranoid about electromagnetic fields,” Blackburn, who is an electrician, told journalist Tony Barrass. “He was always ranting and raving about them, up to the point where he was breaking out in hives and his face looked as if it was about to burst, it was so red. This went on for four months.

    “He began burying a heap of magnets around the place because he believed they diverted these rays away from him. I went up there once and he was yelling at Tony [Popic], who was digging away in the backyard, trying to find the magnets, which he couldn’t.

    “The second last time I saw him he was covered in hives. He said they were killing him and his daughter, and he had gone to the doctor to get some sort of medication. He and Tony were off the planet.”

    To make matter worse, Western Power had contracted Mr Blackburn to carry out the installation and he’d spent a long time explaining to Kadwill that the emissions from the transformer were less harmful than those gernerated by his computer.

    “It was my job to connect it, but I rang Western Power and told them that I wasn’t going to do it because I firmly believed that if I did, this bloke was going to top himself. You’ve got no idea how worked up about it he was.”

    continued below

  2. One day in July 2007, Kadwill, McDougall, Leela and Popic drove away from their Nannup residence forever, leaving behind wallets, credit cards and dirty plates on the table. A note scrawled with the words “Gone to Brazil” was found stuck to the front door by their landlord a few days later.

    The last official sighting of the four was on July 13, 2007 in the WA town of Busselton where they sold a car to a local dealer for $4000 and drove away in a waiting vehicle. Popic’s father Joe told police he had recently given his son $25,000 to take care of what he had believed to be a “legal matter”.

    Police initially thought that they may have sneaked out of the country to New Zealand before travelling to Rio Branco, a Brazilian city known for its religious cults that both McDougall and Kadwill mentioned in conversation before they vanished.

    However, immigration authorities have no record of the group leaving the country and their bank accounts have remained untouched, raising fears the four were dead, possibly even murdered.

    In 2011 the investigation took a dramatic turn when it emerged police were trying to find out whether the four had been aboard a domestic flight in Brazil which crashed four days after they went missing, killing all 192 on board.

    The Tan Airlines flight 3054 from Porto Alegre to Sao Paulo veered off the end of the runway at Sao Paulo Airport, cleared a highway bordering the inner-city airport, slammed into a fuel depot and burst into flames. The resulting heat was so intense that more than 70 of the bodies were so badly burnt they were either never recovered or could not be identified.

    Eventually, a joint investigation between Australian and Brazilian authorities concluded the four had not perished on the flight.

    In 2013 Detective Senior Sergeant Greg Balfour announced a possible break in the case: Investigaters had discovered that a man using Mr Popic’s identification stayed at a Northbridge hostel called Underground Backpackers on the night of July 15, 2007. His driver’s licence with his photo was also used as identification to rent the double room.

    The same man travelled by train from Bunbury to Perth earlier that afternoon before catching a 7.15am train to Kalgoorlie the next morning. Both tickets had been purchased in the name J Roberts. There was no evidence to suggest Chantelle and Leela McDougall had been on the same train.

    continued below

  3. The man could have been Popic but it was also possible Kadwill, with his history of identity theft, had posed as his friend, police said. An appeal to the public for anyone who may have seen the man produced no further leads.

    Today, the group’s fate remains as much of a mystery as it was the day they disappeared.

    Sr Sergeant Balfour told news.com.au that he had followed up the Rio Branco clue, establishing contact with a new age religious group who had lived on the city’s fringe since the early ’80s.

    “This group hasn’t seen or heard of anyone resembling the description (of Kadwill, the McDougalls or Popic) settling in Rio Branco and I believe they are established enough to know whether that had been the case.” he said yesterday.

    “This case is truly a mystery. It’s such a bizarre story and we have as little an idea of their whereabouts today as we did in 2007 when they disappeared.”

    The detective refused to say if he believed Kadwill to be capable of murder.

    “You can’t rule the possibility out but there’s no evidence to suggest they are dead just as there’s no evidence to suggest they are alive, “ he said.

    “We know that Tony was very protective of Chantelle and Leela but we also know they were obedient, submissive to Kadwill. He had a very persuasive way of talking and I think if he had suggested something they would have gone along with it.

    “Remember, he sucessfully isolated Chantelle and Tony from their families so it’s perfectly possible they are alive, living off the grid somewhere in Australia or overseas. There are other ways to leave the country, they could have left by boat, or on a yacht.

    “There are so many possibilities, so many uncertainties. Even the facts raise more questions than answers.”

    Anyone with information about the whereabouts of Chantelle and Leela McDougall, Tony Popic or Simon Kadwill, aka Simon Kaddy aka Gary Feltham, can contact CrimeStoppers on 1800 333 000.