- Thierry Tilly is accused of defrauding 11 members of theVédrines family
- He allegedly told them they were in mortal danger and he’d protect them
- Tilly denies persuading victims to part with property, savings and jewellery
By Leon Watson
PUBLISHED:04:24 EST, 25 September 2012| UPDATED:04:53 EST, 25 September 2012
A guru has gone on trial in France accused of keeping three generations of an aristocratic family under his ‘mental spell’ and defrauding them of their £3.6million fortune.
Thierry Tilly is said to have persuaded the Védrines family that he was a Nato ‘master spy’, a confidante of presidents, a financial genius, and the representative of an ancient order which fights the forces of evil.
The 48-year-old, from Oxford, is accused ofusing brainwashing techniques and violence to convince them that they were in mortal danger from a cabal of freemasons, a European secret society and paedophiles.
Prosecutors have called Tilly, who told 11 members of the family that he could protect them, the ‘Leonardo da Vinci of mental manipulation’.
If convicted, Mr Tilly could face a 10-year prison term and €750,000 (£600,000) fine. Jacques Gonzalez, 65, his alleged accomplice, could face a five-year sentence.
The court in Bordeaux heard that Mr Tilly used his ‘superior intelligence’ to ingratiate himself with the family.
His alleged victims included Guillemette de Védrines, who died in 2010 aged 97, her three children Philippe, Ghislaine and Charles-Henri, the two brothers’ wives, Brigitte and Christine, and five adult grandchildren.
It is alleged Mr Tilly’s first victim was Ghislaine de Védrines, 66, whom he met as an employee of her Paris secretarial college in 1999
After barely registering the ‘uncharismatic’ man for the first year, she gradually found herself drawn to him, and introduced him to relations.
The family claims he brainwashed them into believing they were the lost descendants of an ancient society called ‘The Balance of the World’, and locked themselves into the family chateau in Monflanquin 100 miles east of Bordeaux. For five years, they barely left the castle, terrified they would be killed.
Mr Tilly allegedly claimed they were protected by a global network of secretive grandees, whose head, Mr Gonzalez, was a cousin of King Juan Carlos of Spain.
They were allegedly persuaded to part with property, savings and jewellery worth €4.5million (£3.6million), which were funnelled into a Canadian ‘charity’ that Mr Tilly claimed was set up to pay their ‘protectors’.
‘He kidnapped us by … turning us against one another.’
As scrutiny intensified in France, Mr Tilly allegedly convinced most of the family to decamp to Oxford, where they often failed to pay rent and were taken to court.
Anyone who resisted was allegedly punished severely. Christine de Védrines, 62, says she was locked in a room for several months, deprived of food and beaten.
She says he insisted she knew the number of a bank account that would lead to the lost treasure of the Knights Templar.
When Ghislaine’s husband, Jean Marchand, a journalist, denounced Mr Tilly as a charlatan, his wife and two children branded him an ‘agent of evil’. Mr Marchand alerted the authorities who refused to act because there were no legal complaints from the rest of the family.
Mr Tilly was finally arrested in Switzerland in 2009 following a complaint by Christine, who escaped after confiding in her employer in Oxford.
When Mr Gonzalez was arrested in 2010, police found a BMW 645 with €86,000 in the boot, as well as expensive watches, bottles of fine wine and an ‘opulent wardrobe’.
On the first day of a trial which is expected to last two weeks, Mr Tilly appeared smiling, wearing a black polo-neck jumper and glasses.
Mr Tilly told the court he was a descendant of the Habsburgs and once almost played football for Marseille.
He denies the charge of ‘sequestering with the aim of committing an offence, voluntary violence with premeditation against a vulnerable person and abuse of weakness of a person under psychological submission’.
Mr Gonzalez denies complicity in the charges. The trial continues.
Outside the court, Mrs Marchand said that he was a ‘liar and con-man’. ‘He kidnapped us by … turning us against one another,’ she said
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