A woman found dead by her tent in a remote part of Scotland was a follower of a new age movement which promotes fasting and "living on light", it was believed tonight.
The woman, aged about 50, had been practising some kind of "cult ritual" and fasting could have contributed to her death, according to police who found her body on the west coast of Sutherland.
She is thought to have been a follower of a new-age guru known as Jasmuheen who advocates not eating. Jasmuheen, an Australian woman whose real name is Ellen Greve, claims to have been living on herbal tea, juice and the occasional biscuit since 1993 after being told to change her life by her spiritual mentor St Germain.
Her philosophy is based on "breatharianism", which promotes the idea of "living on light" and almost entirely without food or liquids.
It is understood the woman found in Sutherland was also a member of the Findhorn Foundation, an educational and spiritual establishment which is unconnected with the Jasmuheen movement.
A spokesman for Northern Constabulary said he was unable to confirm the identity of the woman, whose body was found last week. Relatives had still to be informed.
Robin Alfred, manager of the Findhorn Foundation, confirmed that the dead woman had been a member, but would not disclose her name.
He said: "The person whose body was found was a long-term staff member of the Findhorn Foundation in Morayshire, Scotland.
"I think that she was a well respected and much loved member of our community and we miss her greatly and we are in a period of coming to terms with the shock of her death."
He said the Findhorn Foundation was an educational and spiritual establishment with around 170 members which was founded in 1962.
Northern Constabulary said a diary found among the woman's belongings suggested she had been taking part in a spiritual cleansing programme.
A spokesman said: "There was some sort of cult ritual involved.
"She was found on the west coast in Sutherland near a tent which she had pitched.
"It is quite a remote area and it seemed as if she was following some sort of long-term ritual as part of a cult organisation.
"A diary was found relating to the cult in which she was involved."
He said a post mortem examination was conducted yesterday.
Although the exact cause of death had not yet been determined there was a possibility fasting was a contributory factor and that the woman had eventually succumbed to the regime she was living under.