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1 Cult Leader Identified Among 53 Dead; Fate of Other Still Unknown

October 11, 1994| From Associated Press

LAUSANNE, Switzerland — Joseph di Mambro, one of the masterminds of the doomsday cult at the center of last week's grisly deaths of 53 people, died with his followers, Swiss police said Monday.

A statement from Valais state police said Di Mambro was among 25 people whose bodies were found among the rubble of fires that destroyed three chalets in the Alpine village of Granges-sur-Salvan.

The fate of the cult's other leader, Luc Jouret, remained a mystery. Swiss experts began autopsies Monday to determine if Jouret was among the dead.

Police last week issued an arrest warrant on charges of premeditated murder and suspicion of arson against Di Mambro, a 70-year-old French-Canadian, and Jouret, a Belgian believed to be the charismatic force behind the cult.

The identification of Di Mambro's body followed the arrival of Canadian police investigators with his dental records. Many of the dead were burned beyond recognition.

Twenty-three others died in a farmhouse in the Swiss village of Cheiry. Autopsies on those bodies indicated that many were murdered; some had multiple bullet wounds in the head.

Five other bodies were found in a charred chalet the cult leaders owned north of Montreal. Canadian police said three were murdered.

The investigation is continuing in Canada, Australia and Europe. There have been unconfirmed reports that cult leaders were involved in arms trafficking and money-laundering.

One of Switzerland's biggest banks froze an undisclosed number of accounts and launched an internal inquiry. Newspapers have reported cult links to a manager at the Swiss Bank Corp.

The Australian Associated Press reported that Di Mambro and Jouret regularly visited Australia. The agency said Di Mambro lived at the Gold Coast, a beach resort in Queensland state, between last November and April. The agency said immigration records showed Jouret had visited Australia five times since 1989.

"He was very calm and very cool. He had a charisma about him," said Peter Bruinhout, a Gold Coast businessman who said he rented several cars to Jouret.

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