Killer in the cult Luke Andrew Hunter came unstuck through a tip-off to police after almost 15 years on the run

The Courier Mail, Australia/October 15, 2014

By Peter Michael

KillerLuke Hunter hid in plain sight.

For nearly 15 years on the run, Hunter kept his dark secret from fellow members in the polygamist sect, The Jesus Group.

No-one suspected he was Queensland’s most wanted criminal, a convicted killer, heroin junkie, and jail escapee. Hunter loved his new life.

He found freedom in the free love, open sex, and spiritual order of the reclusive and polygamist Jesus Group.

The “cold-blooded assassin” lived a model and blameless life. He grasped the teachings of his religious guru.

Hunter became a convert to the ancient order of an Aramaic religious sect — lived on a communal farm, tended orchards, fixed tractors, and joined the call to prayer sounded by the blowing of a ram’s horn.

He changed his name to Ashban Kadmiel. In Old Hebrew, it meant that of a Judahite who stole what was not his and was stoned to death.

A group of women, wearing headscarves, play in a barn with children in the immaculate grounds of the farm commune, at the end of a dirt track, deep in the folds of the rugged Empress Ranges in far north Queensland.

“He was a quiet, helpful, pleasant man,’’ friend Max Enfield told The Courier-Mail.

“We were innocent to his crimes, totally unaware of his shame or his secret.’’

“There was no hint of a violent past.’’

Using his new identity, Hunter also tended to the sick and infirm at the stately old wooden hospital in the historic tin mining town of Herberton, west of Cairns.

They loved him there.

The tall, freckled redhead had a “kind, warm and gentle manner”, said patients.

He’d clean them, bathe them, feed them, help lift them out of bed to sit outside in the golden sunshine.

They’d talk about the beautiful gardens he tended and kept immaculate in his job as a wardsman and groundskeeper for Queensland Health for 13 years.

If they felt unwell, he’d carry them back inside in his brawny arms, and tuck them back into bed.

When they died, he’d cry and ask God to bless their soul and support them into the afterlife.

Life. New beginnings. The End. He knew all about that.

In 1990, a judge described Hunter as a “cold-blooded assassin” for shooting his best mate in the head on a hunting trip near Newcastle in 1990.

His fate was sealed by a sordid love triangle. His secret lover — who begged the love struck 21-year-old to kill her abusive husband — doublecrossed him and ratted him out to police.

She sold him up the river.

When the chance came to escape high-security Borallon prison, near Ipswich, in 1996, the tattooed, heroin-addicted “lifer” jailbird took it — he ran, and kept running.

Hunter became the hunted.

He headed north, back up river, into the upper catchment of the Walsh River, one of the last wild rivers of Cape York, and made his way to a region notorious for its lawlessness and alternative lifestylers.

“He lived his life looking over his shoulder,’’ said Herberton local Marie Ockenden.

“He was no threat to society. He paid for his crime. It’s unfair he face the gallows for something he did so long ago.”

Hunter came unstuck after he and his girlfriend decided to leave the sect.

His decision to leave to raise money to sponsor hungry African children and build a school became his undoing, his trial heard.

Police, acting on a tip-off, ran a three-day, 10-man surveillance team, dubbed Operation Blaze, and arrested one of Australia’s top three most wanted fugitives without incident on his regular morning jog in Herberton on February 2011.

Hunter had been on the run for "14 years, 11 months and 14 days’".

His new parole date is 2021.

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