'She can rot': Ex-detective's relief at cult leader's death

 theage.com.au  06/14/2019 08:11:43 

Former detective Lex De Man.

Former detective Lex De Man.

She died on Friday aged 97 after years of dementia.

"When you hear of the death of someone, you normally feel sorry," Mr De Man said from the Carlton offices of Victoria Police Legacy, where he has worked as its chief executive for the last three years.

"But nothing could be further from the truth from my perspective today. I'm glad she's dead. She can rot... This is probably one of the best days of my life.

"Today we have seen the death of one of Australia's most evil criminals as far as I'm concerned, and I don't say that lightly."

His thoughts quickly turned to the survivors, who had been calling and messaging him throughout the day, and to the other detectives who worked at his side, some of whom have since passed away.

He phoned Ben Shenton in Perth with the news.

Cult leader Anne Hamilton-Byrne has died aged 97

Cult leader Anne Hamilton-Byrne has died aged 97

Mr Shenton was taken in by the cult aged just 18 months and bore the abuse of Hamilton-Byrne and the 'aunties' until he was rescued with the other children at the age of 15.

He remembers his first night of freedom; the realisation he didn't have to go back, that he didn't have to watch his words or feel scared anymore.

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On Friday, he said he was feeling relieved.

"The influence that Anne had over people, and the damage that was done ... it's good to see a chapter being closed," Mr Shenton said.

"I'm very saddened�by the impact on people, some of them no longer with us, and some of us damaged.

"There will be a lot of fall-out from this, like any time when someone's had an effect on your life, let alone abuse.

"There will be people today thinking about that impact, not wanting to, but being forced to.

"I'm generally feeling for everyone."

Hamilton-Byrne had friends in high places. There were legal technicalities and government incompetency, including a representative of Education Department who decided the cult passed muster to provide home schooling.

Anne Hamilton-Byrne.

Anne Hamilton-Byrne.Credit:John Woudstra

She was never charged with anything more serious than fraud, which led to $5000 in fines  nothing for a woman with an estimated net worth of $10 million.

Mr De Man said it was his greatest regret that police could not land charges of kidnapping, administering drugs and assault.

But he said Hamilton-Byrne's death was not the end of the story.

"There's another couple of chapters to be written and that's compensation for the victims," he said. "That needs to happen."

While the world had changed since the days of The Family, Hamilton-Byrne's death was a reminder to always be vigilant, Mr De Man said.

"We need to always keep on our guard to make sure this type of evil never happens again," he said.� "We have to remember this wasn't some bizarre cult in America, it was right here in Melbourne."

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