International Churches of Christ cult killed my brother

Daily Mail, UK/June 13, 2007
By Shane Phelan

A controversial religious cult has been blamed for the death of a man who threw himself in front of a train.

An inquest heard yesterday that Niall MacMahon, 40, a member of the International Church of Christ, left a suicide note full of references to the Bible and his own damnation.

Niall, from Watling Street in Dublin's south inner city, died instantly when he was hit by the Dublin-Belfast train which was travelling at 60mph through Harmonstown Dart station on March 2, 2006.

Mr MacMahon's brother, Declan, had previously told Dublin City Coroner Dr Brian Farrell that he felt the church which Niall had been a member of for ten years exerted undue influence over him.

'I feel that had he not been in the church, he would be alive today,' he said.

Mr MacMahon repeated his concerns at a resumed hearing yesterday, and he asked that his brother's suicide note be read into the record.

The note, addressed to his wife, /na, referred to brain surgery which he had undergone a year earlier which cured him of the epileptic fits he had suffered since a child.

He said he had come to regret having the operation, which he believed had destroyed his relationship with God.

In his note, Niall wrote: 'My decision to rush into surgery was based on saving money rather than whether it was the right thing to do.

'I put money before my own brain. This was a blasphemous thing to do. I have suffered gravely. I have no peace. There is no peace for the wicked. I have lost hope and fellowship with the Holy Spirit. Life has been a living hell.' In a letter that contained references to the Bible, he continued that he felt he was 'disgraced as a husband and son'. He added that while he had initially hoped he was overreacting, he no longer felt he was.

'I am not regaining any peace or joy. I put money before God and this not for the first time,' he wrote.

He stressed that he knew his wife and family were loving and caring and had in no way let him down.

'This is completely to do with my grave folly which caused me to be cut off from God. This is why I decided to do this. God is faith, is love, is grace but must be obeyed.' Declan said Niall had spoken previously of a feeling that he was a bad Christian. However, Declan said yesterday, 'You could not meet a nicer person, a more genuine, loving person.' No one from the International Church of Christ was at yesterday's hearing, despite being asked by Dr Farrell to send a representative.

The inquest heard that Niall MacMahon had to be identified from CCTV footage showing him entering the station and by personal effects, including a backpack, bank cards and some letters.

He had been discharged from psychiatric care at St James's Hospital-in Dublin on February 27 after spending a month there following a suicide attempt on January 17.

On that occasion, he tried to hang himself in the Phoenix Park but park rangers found him in time.

At the inquest, his family comhadplained that they were not made aware of Niall's first suicide bid, even though he was discharged into their care at weekends.

'We did ask, but he just said he didn't want to talk about it,' Declan MacMahon told his inquest. 'We no notion how serious his condition was. We thought he was being treated for mild depression.

'They (St James's) could have taken us aside and said keep an eye on him, he is in a delicate state. We feel very annoyed about that and disappointed in the hospital. We can not change what happened but we would like to see the law changed.' Offering his condolences to Niall's parents, Olive and James MacMahon, Dr Farrell said he would be willing to write to St James's and the Medical Council to convey their concerns if the jury so recommended.

The jury returned a verdict that Mr MacMahon had taken his own life, adding a recommendation that the law on patient confidentiality be changed so that families can be informed by professionals if a loved one is suicidal.

They also asked that Dr Farrell write to the International Church of Christ to pass on the family's concerns about its relationship with their brother.

One expert on cult religions, Mike Garde, of Dialogue Ireland, has said in the past that while there are legitimate branches of the International Church of Christ in Dublin, a breakaway group practises the extreme manipulation of members and would qualify as a cult.

At the height of its popularity the church here numbered some 60 followers, although its membership has collapsed in the past five years.

At present it is estimated that there are just 20 members.

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