Surviving Waco

BBC News/October 7, 2008

There are certain events which have such an impact on the world that they become known simply by the name of the place where they happen. Waco is one of them.

The city in Texas is synonymous with the siege at a ranch on its outskirts, which took place over 51 days in 1993.

Waco was, of course, a tragedy - more than 80 people, including many children, lost their lives. It was also an extraordinary news event.

It centred around a religious cult called the Branch Davidians and its leader David Koresh.

First, there was the botched raid by federal officials, who said they were looking for illegal firearms. Then there was the 51 day stand-off and, finally, there was the huge fire, which destroyed the property.

Before the fire

One of the Branch Davidians who survived was a British man called Livingstone Fagan, from Nottingham.

Along with other Branch Davidians, he was accused of murder but eventually acquitted.

He was sentenced to 40 years in prison for charges relating to voluntary manslaughter and a firearms offence, allegations he still denies.

After spending more than 14 years in prison, he has returned to Britain.

Mr Fagan met David Koresh five years before the siege, when Koresh visited Britain.

At the time, Mr Fagan was studying theology. He was invited to come to America so he did, "just to hear a little more of what he was about and what the Waco Community was about".

Mr Fagan says he remains a Branch Davidian to this day and says he believes what happened at Waco was prophesised in the Book of Revelation in the New Testament.

"That was our home. The government had no right in our thinking and as far as the constitution in America was concerned to come at us [in] the way they did and then demand that we come because of what they started," he says.

Alternative witness

When the siege happened, Mr Fagan says he was in the ranch with his mother, his wife and his two young children.

When we met in his Nottingham flat, I told him that I understood that his children had been "allowed to leave". He did not like the phrase.

"I don't want to use that term allowed to leave. Reluctantly, some of the children left the building. This was an act on our part to find a way of finding a settlement to all of this."

Mr Fagan also left before the end of the siege.

"Given the evidence that existed there, there was a sense that we may all be killed and the government may attempt to sell this to the public as some kind of suicide, which in fact they tried to, in order to cover their tracks," he says.

"So, there was a feeling that there needed to be some people alive that would somehow be able give an alternative witness to what really went on."

His mother and wife remained in the ranch and died in the fire. He describes them as "martyrs".

Instructed by God

Mr Fagan dismisses the results of the official Special Counsel investigation into what happened, which cleared the US government of all blame. He says his fellow Branch Davidians were murdered and it definitely was not "mass suicide".

He compares what happened at Waco to the crucifixion and likens David Koresh to Christ. He also says Waco is not over in terms of what he calls "the prophetic dimension".

"There is what we refer to as the Sixth Seal in the Book of Revelation, Chapter 6. There is an event that is to occur.

"You are going to see something supernatural taking place over there in Jerusalem. It relates to the Mount of Olives. It's going to split. It'll become a wide valley, then it'll be lifted up. This light will appear on it," he says.

He claims this will be the "end of the world as we know it". He brushes off suggestions that people might think he is crazy.

"When they were telling you the world was round back then, when people believed it was flat. Didn't they say they were mad, they were crazy?"

Livingstone Fagan claims he is not the only Branch Davidian now living in Britain. He says there are a small number of others too.

And as for why the community he was part of in Waco in 1993 required firearms, he says they needed them to defend themselves and that they were instructed to have them for that purpose by God.

Waco Siege

Approximately 77 cult members, including cult leader David Koresh, died in the fire that ended the Waco siege on 19 April 1993

The siege started two months earlier when agents from the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) attempted to arrest Koresh on firearms charges

In 2000 a government-appointed investigator cleared the FBI of any blame in starting the fire

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