Somerset

Mother 'lost' to Serge Benhayon's Universal Medicine cult

Kasha
Image caption Kasha claims she "lost" her mother to the cult which teaches that people are sexually abused because of what they did in former lives

A woman has claimed she "lost" her mother to a cult that involves participants "burping out bad spirits".

Kasha said her mother started behaving "ridiculously" after following Serge Benhayon's Universal Medicine.

He teaches that people are sexually abused because of what they did in a past life and that people with autism were former dictators.

Mr Benhayon previously denied any wrong doing, said he does not run a cult and is a victim of a media witch hunt.

He has not responded to a BBC request for a comment or interview.

The former tennis coach, who lives in Australia, is now a millionaire after having previously been made bankrupt.

Churchill's 'reincarnation'

Mr Benhayon founded Universal Medicine in 1999, with European headquarters at the Lighthouse in Tytherington, near Frome in Somerset, which he visits twice a year.

Followers are expected to go to bed at 21:00 and get up at 03:00 and they have to follow a strict diet, which forbids even vegetables.

He has claimed his daughter Simone, who is the main contact for Universal Medicine in the UK, is the reincarnation of World War Two prime minister Winston Churchill.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Serge Benhayon believes his daughter Simone is Winston Churchill reincarnated

In December an Australian court, during a libel claim, found it was true to say that Universal Medicine was a "socially harmful cult" that makes false claims about healing.

Simon Williams, who is the managing director of the Lighthouse and president of Frome's Chamber of Commerce, said people "don't understand" what the organisation is about.

He said the Australian court ruling was "totally untrue" but when Mr Williams was questioned over Universal Medicine's beliefs over sexual assault and disabled people he refused to answer.

'Wasn't mum anymore'

Kasha, from London, told the BBC's Inside Out West the behaviour of her mother, who the BBC is not naming, changed after she was introduced to the cult 11 years ago.

"I remember I was about 13 and she started burping ridiculously," she said.

"I said 'what are you doing?' and she said she was 'burping out bad spirits'.

"How could you say that and how could anyone believe that?

"I kind of realised that she wasn't mum anymore, so that was quite difficult. I kind of realised... I've just got to let her go."

Image caption The cult's HQ is based at the Lighthouse in Frome

When Kasha, who did not want to use her full name, was 12 her mother left the family home in London to move half a mile from the Lighthouse.

"She's still my mum and I love her, but she's never going to be the person that she was or the person I even remember her to be," she said.

Last year Mr Benhayon took a former patient to court in Australia for defamation.

Esther Rockett had been blogging about his practices, claiming he indecently touched her during an "ovarian reading". A jury found in her favour.

Among other things it found Mr Benhayon engaged in sexual manipulation to make money for his business, exploited cancer patients by targeting them to leave him bequests in their wills and persuaded followers to shun loved ones who would not join his cult.

BBC Inside Out West can be seen on BBC One in the West and South region, and on BBC One HD in England, at 20:30 BST on Monday 11 March, then afterwards on the BBC iPlayer.

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