Cult love triangle culminated in bullying, suicide call, court hears

The Examiner, Australia/November 13, 2023

By Benjamin Seeder

A love triangle involving an alleged cult leader and several of her disciples culminated in a five-hour self-help course session in which a woman was abused and bullied and later invited to kill herself, a court has heard.

During cross-examination on Monday, former Universal Knowledge director Anita Carroll denied witnessing organisation founder Natasha Lakaev publicly abusing and bullying student Catherine Locke over a five-hour period during the 'Personal Mastery' course in the early 2000s.

Ms Lakaev is suing former Universal Knowledge member Carli McConkey in the Hobart Supreme Court for defamation over her 2017 book 'The Cult Effect'.

Ms McConkey, who is representing herself in court, asked whether Ms Carroll had witnessed Ms Locke flirting with Chris Wellington, the partner of Ms Lakaev at the time.

'The Cult Effect' was published in 2017 and details Ms McConkey's experience inside Universal Knowledge.

"It was so complicated, Catherine wanted Chris, but Chris didn't want Catherine," Ms Carroll said.

She said she did not recall seeing Ms Lakaev abusing and bullying Ms Locke for a five-hour period, and then Ms Locke saying to the group that she wanted to die.

"There were issues, personal issues happening between three people, each person had a right to express what they thought.

"I can't remember anyone being bullied in the process."

"Do you recall Natasha Lakaev asking for someone to get a rope to hang up in shape of noose?" Ms McConkey asked?


"Do you recall her asking Greg Proctor to bring a knife and telling Catherine to stab herself?"


Ms Locke never returned to the course after that evening.

Ms Carroll said although Ms Locke would have been welcomed back into Universal Knowledge, she would never have been permitted to return to the 'Personal Mastery' course.

"What she did to Darren (her then partner), she used that man, used his money, she pretended she was in love but she wanted to be in a relationship with Chris [Wellington]," Ms Carroll said.

Earlier, the court heard Ms Carroll's testimony that Ms McConkey was so "obsessed" with Natasha Lakaev that the Universal Knowledge leader required personal protection.

She said these protectors physically blocked Ms McConkey from striking Ms Lakaev on at least one occasion.

Asked how she knew Ms McConkey was obsessed, Ms Carroll said she had noticed the 'Cult Effect' author's strange behaviour while she attended the 'Final Step' course.

"You always had your hand up, you were always manoeuvring to be physically near her," she said.

"I didn't know you at that time, but I remember thinking, 'that woman is obsessed'".

The trial, which has continued for nearly two months, has previously heard that Universal Knowledge was a doomsday cult which prophesied the end of the world in 2011, and that Ms Lakaev made numerous claims about her past lives.

The trial continues.

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