Cult's Promised Land in the Adelaide Hills

Sunday Mail/May 22, 2010

An Agape cult insider has revealed its Mt Magnificent property included a secret underground bunker to shelter members from the end of the world.

The bunker, which cult leader Rocco Leo named "The Holy Land Hideout", is said to be more than 50m long, 30m wide and contains food supplies.

Nestled in sprawling hills about 20km west of Willunga, the compound is set back from main roads and surrounded by hobby farmers, making it the perfect hiding place for the doomsday cult.

The property - which they called The Promised Land - is between an abandoned home and a slaughterhouse that employs just two men. Cult members were able to go about their business virtually unnoticed for at least the past five years.

Hobby farmers driving past the innocuous-looking gates on Blackfellows Creek Rd would not have noticed a thing: a regular farm fence keeps cows from straying on to the road, goats graze quietly in the paddocks, and a shimmering dam completes the picturesque setting. It is the sort of place you would dream of retiring to. But an aerial view tells a very different story.

It is a scene eerily reminiscent of a compound in Waco, Texas, where Branch Davidian cult leader David Koresh and 75 of his followers, including 20 children, died in 1993 on a property they named Mt Carmel.

The insider said the property had no security, with members simply opening two farm gates to gain entry.

He said members would gather at the property - sometimes 20 or 30 at a time - and work on maintaining the land. "There were children there, it was no problem," he said. The man said members were "different nationalities - Australians, Italians, Greeks". Members fed the 50 goats and six or seven cows with feed kept in two sheds either side of the kitchen.

In the evenings, members were made to sleep on the floor of the dining room, inside the kitchen building, in sleeping bags and on bean bags, while the leaders and their families relaxed, "watched television and got warm" in the leaders-only house. The man said the site was powered by mains electricity. A dam at the front of the property is maintained by a gravity-fed water supply from a nearby gold mine. Prior to Leo buying the property more than five years ago, the dam water was shared between local land owners, but neighbours say the cult quickly cut off their supply.

The complex was once run as a drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre by the Adelaide Central Mission. One neighbour, who did not want to be named, said gunshots on the property had become more frequent in the last five to six weeks. "I know what a .22 for general farm use sounds like," the woman said. "But these were different guns."

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