This week’s 48 Hours on CBS will examine the life of Anne Hamilton Byrne, the beautiful sect leader whose story made international headlines after it was discovered that she kept over a dozen adopted children locked away at her home in Australia. On the 48 Hours documentary titled “The Family,” the children, who are now adults, will described their experiences growing up in Victoria’s Lake Eildon, near Melbourne.
A look inside Australia’s most notorious cult, The Family: https://t.co/Zn1Aaprllw @madconnaughton pic.twitter.com/1FU8WJo9YO
— VICE AU (@VICEAU) February 20, 2017
According to tonight’s 48 Hours, Anne Hamilton-Byrne, “The Family’s” seductive cult leader desired to create a family of perfect little children who would be prepared for an apocalyptic event that would befall the entire world. In preparation, she dyed and bleached the children’s hair blonde and forged their birth certificates to keep their real identities a secret.
On a daily basis, the children read scriptures and learned the cult’s tenets and principles, which were based in Christianity and Hinduism.
It was important for them to keep divine order and complete spiritual missions. With hundreds of followers with branches all over the world, including the United States, Anne Hamilton-Byrne was to be seen as the reincarnation of Jesus Christ.
Captured home video showed the smiling faces of angelic-looking white children dressed in sailor clothing. But behind the faces of the children, who often danced and played on their homemade playground, was a horrible secret. CBS 48 Hours will show that they were often beaten, starved, and thrown into dark rooms.
How are former members of “The Family” coming to terms with what they lived through as children? https://t.co/DFU7TWDrSh #48hours, 9/8c pic.twitter.com/HyI22PBuVt
And there was something even darker happening there. The sweet-faced children were being injected with LSD, a mind-altering substance that made it easier to brainwash them.
To maintain control over the children, Anne Hamilton-Byrne threatened that if anyone told the police about what was going on, they would be raped and beaten by law enforcement.
“The Family” compound was flagged at least twice before it all came to a crashing end. In 1983, police went to the home to check on a missing girl, the Herald Sun reported. Then in 1985, an article appeared in the newspapers about a widow who once stayed at the so-called retreat. But the scandal broke wide open in 1987, after six children were rescued. The police were told to launch a formal investigation into the sect. The Australian news media went wild over the case.
Anne Hamilton-Byrne was never charged with anything more than the fraud charges. And she went after some publications who classified her group as a sect. According to the Palm Beach Post, the former yoga teacher and beauty queen filed a lawsuit against the Weekly Wold News for reporting a similar story.
‘Clearing’ a common cult euphemism for brainwashing. #TheFamily’s Anne Hamilton-Byrne is close to death #cults https://t.co/DBu3MZEuld
— Esther Rockett (@EstherRockett) February 17, 2017
Authorities say that Anne Hamilton-Byrne was a charismatic and charming woman who kept her hair pretty and wore beautiful jewelry and heavy makeup. But beneath the sheen of glamour was a woman that one detective described as the most evil person he had ever met. Lex de Man told The Age the following.
“My only regret is she was never held totally to account for the misery she caused to the former cult children. I have no sympathy for the woman I consider the most evil person I ever met in my police career.”
Authorities say that Hamilton-Byrne started the sect with Dr. Raynor Johnson with the plan to adopt as many children as possible to create a master race, a pure Great White Brotherhood of sorts. Below is the 2016 trailer a documentary that was based on the case, which was appropriately titled The Family.
Today, she suffers from dementia and lives in a nursing home. She is around 97 years old. The story of Anne Hamilton-Byrne and her surviving children will air on CBS 48 Hours tonight at 10/9 p.m. Central.