A desperate South African couple have lost their 18-year-old daughter to a cult group in the United States that lured her via the Internet.
[D. M.] , from Johannesburg, has married the 58-year-old American cult leader - who calls himself "Amadon" - in Oregon, and vowed never to return home.
Her parents, [Mr. and Mrs. M.] , say she met the man, who styled himself as a new age guru, when she turned to the Internet for comfort. She was 15 at the time and was drawn to his website.
Almost instantly, [D. M.] fell under the influence of "Amadon" - the cult leader. Also involved in the "cult" was Amadon's ex-wife, Sara Schorske, who has numerous aliases, the latest being Sara Donna.
Amadon and Sara Donna confirmed the details of their backgrounds in an email to [Mr. M.] after [D. M.] arrived in the US.
The Oregonian newspaper in Oregon has previously described Amadon as a "foul-mouthed zealot who psychologically controlled his workers" and who had been successfully sued for sexual harassment by two former employees in Santa Rosa, California, in 1996.
The employees said in their suit that employees were encouraged to touch one another and to allow themselves to be touched. They said Amadon would walk through the office daily to evaluate the spiritual and psychological state of the employees' minds. He would frequently touch them and ask them about their sex lives.
"We, as parents, only became aware of [D. M.] unhealthy liaison about a year ago," said [the Ms], who is the head of the trauma unit at a Krugersdorp private hospital.
"At that time, Amadon had proposed marriage to our then 17-year-old daughter. The matter was investigated by the Child Protection Unit in Pretoria and a forensic audit of our home computer was done. We tried all we could to dissuade our daughter from these ideas, which began when she was a devout Christian and during a time of great health crisis in her mother."
"I want you to know that I am safe"
But on the last day of the school term last month, [the Ms] worst nightmare came true.
"After school, [D. M.] told us she was staying over with a friend. But we later discovered that she had absconded to the US via Canada on a return-ticket funded secretly by Amadon. Sadly, it did not end there. Within a day of arriving in the state of Oregon she secretly married Amadon - a sham marriage to get US citizenship - and declared that she is never returning home. My family was devastated."
On Easter Monday the family received "a typical cult-like letter" from [D. M.], cutting off ties with them - unless they complied with certain conditions.
In the letter, which has been seen by the Saturday Star, sister paper of the Weekend Argus, [D. M.] wrote: "I want you to know that I am safe. Amadon is everything I always thought he was. Now that I have left home and am a married woman I am no longer under your control. This is my choice and it is the life I want to lead. If you choose to express your disapproval about this I will not communicate with you.
"This thing is final. And you will have to accept it. If you can't and if you reject my husband and these people, then you have rejected me. I don't think that under those circumstances, it's possible for us to have any workable relationship."
After Ian was informed of the marriage proposal last year, he contacted the US embassy in Pretoria and explained the situation. Although he had refused to give [D. M.] her passport, he said he was sure she "would try and get another one".
"I asked the embassy to block her from getting a visa and I received an email saying the request had been forwarded to the consulate."
When the Saturday Star contacted the embassy, spokesperson Daniel Stewart said the request "probably had been sent to the consulate", but that he could not discuss individual applications for visas.
"[D. M.] is 18 years old. She is an adult and she has a right to apply for a visa. I know that US immigration laws frown upon marriages of convenience but there is nothing we can do about that."
[Mr. M.] also contacted the FBI in Portland and even approached Interpol for help, without success.
The SAPS told the Saturday Star its Child Protection Unit was busy with an inquiry into the matter, but "since [D. M.] is over 18 and all indications are that she left the country out of her own free will, there is currently no indication that any crime was committed locally".
[the Ms] are furious that neither US nor South African authorities have assisted them in securing their teenage daughter's safety.
"How can a 58-year-old man use the Internet to solicit minor children, wait until they are 18 and then import them to the US for exploitation and get away with it?" pleaded [Mr. M.] .