Last days of the 'living god': Woman cult leader who 'took children from their mothers and brought them up as her own' is now so ravaged by dementia she only talks to a plastic doll

Daily Mail, UK/May 16, 2014
By Emily Crane

Australia's most notorious cult leader is so incapacitated by dementia that she only communicates with a toy doll in a suburban nursing home.

Anne Hamilton-Byrne, 84, led the infamous Melbourne cult, The Family, for three decades in the 1960s.

She has been battling dementia in Centennial Lodge nursing home at Wantirna South, south east of Melbourne, since 2007.

Hamilton-Byrne now has flashes of her old self as a yoga teacher in Geelong and as a young girl attending school at Sunshine, according to former cult child and her 'adopted' daughter, Dr Sarah Moore.

'She's very demented, rocking back and forth. Her only connection seems to be a plastic baby doll that she talks to and dresses,' Dr Moore told The Age.

'She is lost in a regressed, demented state. Anne doesn't have to be a guru any more. You can see the child she was and perhaps see how it all ended up in her grand but disastrous illusion.'

As head of The Family, Hamilton-Byrne allegedly housed dozens of children at Lake Eildon who were obtained through adoption scams, brainwashed and given mind-altering drugs like LSD.

She was helped by a group of followers, including an inner-circle of women known as the 'Aunties'.

The children were brainwashed into thinking Hamilton-Byrne was a God and their hair was dyed blonde to make it look like they were from the same family.

A number of her devoted followers still visit her in the nursing home under the guise she is a living god, according to Dr Moore.

Hamilton-Byrne's assets and properties are now being sold, transferred or given away with her estate estimated to be worth between $10 million and $20 million.

Attempts by former cult members to claim compensation for their time with The Family have been foiled as Hamilton-Byrne's lawyer uses her dementia as a defence.

Dr Moore has blamed her current mental and physical illnesses on the beatings and starvation she experienced when she lived in the cult.

She was taken from her teenage mother at birth by a cult doctor and stayed with The Family until she was 17.

The Family's property Lake Eildon was raided by police in 1987 and a number of children were taken into a state government agency's care.

Hamilton-Byrne has only faced one charge – a perjury felony in 1994 for failing to properly declare several adoptions.

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