Manson disciple's chilling TV tale

Stuff Entertainment News, New Zealand/August 2, 2009

It was the mass murder that rocked the world - the brutal killings of film director Roman Polanski's heavily pregnant wife and four friends by cult leader Charles Manson's gang.

Now 40 years on, Linda Kasabian, the getaway driver on the night of the killings, has broken her silence for a chilling drama-documentary Most Shocking: Manson.

She stood lookout outside Polanski's house in Los Angeles while the gang, "The Family," stabbed to death screen star Sharon Tate, just two weeks away from giving birth, and her dinner companions.

Kasabian recalls that horrific night in the documentary screened on Prime this Friday. She said: "I felt like an empty shell. It was like my body was there but I wasn't.

"The screams that I heard coming from the house were blood curdling, chilling screams screaming for your life.

"I couldn't tell if they were male or female they were just screams."

Executive producer Nick Godwin told Sunday News: "I think it did help Linda to be a part of this documentary, it was quite cathartic for her. She's now 60 and she's lived with this all her life it's pretty much destroyed her life."

Godwin was trying to discover how charismatic Manson manipulated normal American kids into becoming his disciples and then killers.

He said: "From the beginning we thought the main question was how Manson took these middle America, hippy girls who were little more than kids and turned them into mass murderers.

"Linda exemplified that she joined the cult on the run from a bad relationship and a month later she was taking part in the most notorious murder of the 20th century. It's quite extraordinary."

Godwin took months to persuade Kasabian to tell the story which even her own family has not heard in full. His powerful documentary shows the build up to the murders through her own eyes.

She was just 20 when she left her husband and took her toddler daughter Tanya to join Manson's commune at an abandoned Wild West film set on the Spahn Ranch. She stole US$5000 from her husband which she gave to The Family, guaranteeing her acceptance.

She said: "I was searching for love and freedom I was searching for God," she said.

The gang funded their bohemian lifestyle of psychedelic drugs and orgies by robbing homes at night.

On the evening of August 9, 1969, pregnant Kasabian, fuelled on drugs, thought that she, Charles "Tex" Watson, Susan Atkins and Patricia Krenwinkel were heading out on a "creepy crawl" robbery, sneaking into homes to steal while the owners were asleep.

They drove to Polanski's home but then a car approached the house. Watson shot the occupant Steven Parent, 18, four times. Kasabian recalls teenager Parent's death: "(Watson) told me to take the wallet from the kid that that he shot I didn't see any blood but he (Parent) wasn't there."

Then she was told to wait at the back of the house. Polanski was away in London and Tate was having dinner with hairdresser Jay Sebring, Polish actor Wojciech Frykowski and his lover Abigail Folger.

The gang brutally stabbed all four as screams rang out. Kasabian said, sobbing: "I saw a man and he had blood all over his face and he looked right into my eyes...and I felt he was dying because of me.

"And I saw a woman in a white dress and she had blood all over her and she was screaming and she was calling for her mum."

Kasabian, who's been in hiding for the past 40 years since giving evidence against her former friends, said: "I felt then what I feel now that it was a waste of life that had no rhyme or reason.

"It was wrong and it hurt a lot of people it still does now and (will) always, forever."

The next night Manson ordered Kasabian to kill a man she had met on the beach a few days earlier. She managed to get out of it and the next day fled from the commune.

She and her commune friends had felt safe with father figure Manson, an ex-convict with dreams of becoming a rock star.

She said: "He gave me the feeling that I would be cared for and that he looked after everybody.

"I eventually felt really safe and protected we were like his children."

But Manson's preaching took a sinister turn when he decided to start a race war, which he nicknamed Helter Skelter after the Beatles song, by killing random white people and blaming it on the black community. Kasabian was offered immunity in exchange for turning state's evidence at the trial of The Family. Manson, now 74, got the death penalty. He has served 38 years in prison after his sentence was changed to life imprisonment in 1972.

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