Sex sect guru jailed

The Mercury (Australia) / August 1, 2000

A SELF-styled spiritual guru with nine wives and about 63 children was behind bars last night after being convicted of a string of child sex crimes.

The one-time head of his own exclusive seaside sect at Bells Beach, Alistah Laishkochav was taken to a small holding cell pending his sentencing. Laishkochav, 71, appeared mildly surprised by the verdict.

It took a County Court jury of nine men and three women less than two hours to find that the lifestyle preached and practised by Laishkochav was a smokescreen for his deviant behavior.

During the trial, the court heard how Laishkochav had attracted dozens of young devotees from around Australia, among them his wives, who slept upstairs in one giant, master bedroom.

The jury heard that as they slept, Laishkochav would prowl through the house, seeking out and molesting youngsters. Four girls aged 7-10 were regularly and repeatedly abused by the New Zealander over a four-year period.

One of his wives, a mother to eight of his children, said three of the wives had taken Laishkochav to a doctor after the allegations were raised for a referral to a psychiatrist.

She said the women organised a CAT scan because "we thought he was mental". It became apparent when the first of several wives gave evidence that the women had been little more than teenagers themselves when they married Laishkochav.

His defence argued the size of his spiritual family put a unique spin on the allegations. "Think of a family pizza and think of bath time and the logistics are very big," defence counsel Keith Boulton said. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned and hell hath no fury like nine women scorned, he said.

But the jury rejected any suggestion that the disturbing allegations against Laishkochav had been caused by an oversized family fracturing, with the consequent break up causing a nasty fallout multiplied many times over. Laishkochav, who pleaded not guilty to 22 charges, was found guilty on 21 counts.

They including nine counts of indecent assault, one of recklessly causing injury, and three of attempting sexual penetration on a child under the age of 10.

County Court Judge Mervyn Kimm will hear pre-sentence submissions on Thursday

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