Leader of outlawed cult charged with child abuse

Associated Press/August 9, 2002

Sydney, Australia -- The leader of a religious cult who calls himself "The Little Pebble'' has been charged with sexually abusing children, police announced Friday. William Kamm faces six counts of child sexual assault, New South Wales police said in a statement.

Police Sgt. Chris Peterson said officers raided Kamm's 15-hectare (37-acre) property near Nowra, about 150 kilometers (90 miles) south of Sydney, on Thursday.

The property is home to 200 followers of Kamm's Order of St. Charbel sect -- an offshoot of the Catholic Church that the Vatican ordered disbanded in June.

Kamm, 52, was charged with four counts of aggravated sexual assault, one count of aggravated indecent assault and one count of aggravated act of indecency, Peterson said.

Another man, aged 73, who was living at the cult's property, faced two charges of aggravated indecent assault, Peterson said. His identity was not released.

All assaults allegedly took place in the early 1990s, the police spokesman said.

Both men are scheduled to appear in Nowra Local Court on Sept. 9. The maximum penalties they face were not immediately available.

State Protection Group officers and detectives from the Child Protection and Enforcement Agency raided the property and seized several items.

In June, Catholic Bishop Peter Ingham of the nearby town of Wollongong said the Vatican had outlawed Kamm and his Order of Charbel and ordered him to disband his movement.

A spokeswoman for Ingham said Friday that the charges laid against Kamm were a " police matter'' and had nothing to do with the church.

" The church made its position known in June, now it's no longer a church matter,'' she said on condition of anonymity.

It was not immediately clear why Kamm calls himself ''The Little Pebble.''

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