Leader among dead in Czech cult killing case

Czech police are investigating two deaths associated with a cult led by a self-proclaimed healer from the town of Kutná Hora. The two men died last August after engaging in a ritual, which involved physical violence. The healer himself was murdered two months later by two female members of his sect, who claim they killed him at his own request.

Kutná Hora | Photo: Wine fund

Manipulation, psychological and physical abuse and dangerous rituals. These were the main features of a sect that formed around a self-proclaimed healer from the central Bohemian town of Kutná Hora known as Richard.

The man received his clients in his apartment and – according to the testimonies of individual members – he gradually gained control over their lives by using manipulation and psychological pressure. Here is a statement one of the cult’s former members gave at a court hearing:

One of the two female members of the sect comes to court | Photo: Zuzana Jarolímková,  Český rozhlas

“He operated with terms such as betrayal, love and hate, fate and the loss of soul. He quoted Dante's Inferno: abandon all hope – whoever disobeys me will be lost in hell and endless terror, with absolutely no hope. I know it sounds trite today, but at the time I trusted him completely, and for me betrayal meant I would lose a sense of life.”

Gradually, the leader formed a closed community of around 20 people around himself, forcing them to bring him money, change jobs and partners and move house. It was only after his death last October that the police started to unravel the dark network, which operated for about two decades.

The dentist at court | Photo: Zuzana Jarolímková,  Czech Radio

Two female members of the closed community, a dentist and a retired gym teacher, now stand accused of his murder. Their defence in court is that they acted on his instructions and believed his body would miraculously disappear.

It also turned out that the dentist, who was in an intimate relationship with the healer, had been brutally tormented, raped and beaten for months leading up to the murder. Many have asked how a university-educated woman with a well-paid job could have succumbed to the man’s bizarre ideas, such as that he was the reincarnation of Jesus. However, forensic psychologist Ludmila Čírtková says it is not surprising at all.

Ludmila Čírtková | Photo: Alžběta Švarcová,  Czech Radio

“The prevailing opinion is that those who allow themselves to be manipulated are naive or lack the ability to think critically. This is definitely not true. In the cases I assessed that were based on heavy manipulation, the victims were for example journalists, they were doctors, law students and so on.”

According to the dentist’s lawyer, his client did not commit murder, but manslaughter due to unsoundness of mind and is therefore not criminally responsible for her actions.

Meanwhile, the police have also been investigating two deaths apparently related to the same cult. Two middle-aged men died last August after engaging in a purification ritual in a forest near the town of Český Šternberk, which included physical violence.

Český Šternberk | Photo: Zuzana Jarolímková,  Czech Radio

What exactly took place in the woods is unclear, but one of the men died after being beaten with a wooden stick, suffering serious injuries to his head and kidneys. The other most likely committed suicide in fear that he too would have to take part in the brutal ritual.

Authors: Ruth Fraňková , Martin Štorkán; Vít Kubant
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