The 2007 Disappearance Of The Truth Fellowship Cult Leader And His Family

July 13, 2007, was the last time anyone reported seeing Simon Kadwell and his partner Chantelle McDougall, their young daughter, Leela, and family friend, Tony Popic, alive. The four people disappeared mysteriously, and it wasn't until authorities began digging into the case that they discovered Kadwell was the cult leader of the Truth Fellowship, a doomsday cult that had a small number of followers, according to Perth Now

Not a lot is known about the cult, but Perth Now reports that the 40 cult members communicated with each other and Kadwell online in a forum called "The Gateway." Known as "Si" to his followers, Kadwell ran the operation from his home in Nannup, a town in southwest Australia. Kadwell also reportedly penned two books: "Servers of the Divine Plan" and "The New Call," both of which predict the world will enter into a higher consciousness after 75,000 a year cycle (via ABC).

Kadwell wasn't who he said he was

A 2017 inquest into the case revealed that Kadwell wasn't who he said he was. Investigators discovered that Kadwell's real name was Gary Feltham, and he was born in 1962 in the United Kingdom. He stole the identity of Simon Kadwell, a coworker, in the 1990s. After getting a new passport, he traveled to the United States and India. Later, Kadwell moved to Melbourne with another woman named Deborah, where they met McDougal, who moved in with them. McDougall had Leela in 2001. Another devotee also moved into the same house, but Kadwell and McDougall moved out after what The Guardian calls "bitter recriminations." Popic also joined them in their travels, and sometime in 2004, the four ended up in Nannup, per Perth Now.

The Guardian reports that the four may have been living on borrowed time. The story goes that they fled Nannup because one of McDougall's former boyfriends tipped off police that Kadwell was lying about his identity. During a traffic stop, police questioned him, and months later, the four disappeared.

Kadwell spent a lot of time on his computer

Kadwell, 55; McDougall, 28; Leela, 6; and Popic, 42, shared the same house while living in Nannup. Their landlord, Anne Crouch, visited them often, and she tells The Guardian that McDougall held down a few part-time jobs while Kadwell slept all day after being on his computer all night long. She says McDougall was outgoing and Popic, who worked at a hardware shop, was well-liked. While they might have been ideal tenants, she says that Kadwell "had some power over people in that house."

Detective Senior Sergeant Greg Balfour echoed this sentiment. He tells Perth Now that investigators know that Popic was "very protective of Chantelle and Leela," but that all of them were "obedient" and "submissive" to Kadwell. He also says that Kadwell was persuasive and he believes the others would have gone along with anything he suggested, even if he wanted them to live off-grid somewhere.

Kadwell had strange beliefs

Perth Now reports that after the family moved to Nannup in 2004, Kadwell became known for his odd behavior. He reportedly believed that there was a conspiracy against him and Leela that involved the local electric company installing a power pole with a transformer that would shower them with electromagnetic waves. Kadwell's neighbor, Bruce Blackburn, tells Perth Now that Kadwell was "always ranting and raving" about the waves to the point that he would break out in hives.

Kadwell was so obsessed with electromagnetic waves that he buried magnets in his yard, believing they would somehow protect them. Blackwell says the last time he saw Kadwell, the cult leader said he believed the waves were killing him, and that he had gone to a doctor for medication. That was in July 2007, and it was just a few days after this encounter that Kadwell, his partner, daughter, and friend were never to be seen again.

Gone to Brazil

It's difficult to disappear without a trace, but that seems to be the only way to describe what happened with Kadwell and the others. Perth Now reports that Kadwell was last seen on July 13, 2007, in the town of Busselton, where he sold a car to a dealer for $4,000. McDougall told her mother that she was going to Brazil to meet with Kadwell to "prepare the world for a new divine plan," according to The Guardian. She sold her car, along with her dachshund dogs, and left town without telling anyone else. Popic reportedly got a $25,000 loan from his father before he disappeared.

Balfour says investigators discovered that a man using Popic's ID stayed at Northbridge hostel Underground Backpackers in Perth on July 15, 2007, and traveled to Bunbury before catching a train to Kalgoorlie the following day, but there was no evidence that Kadwell, McDougall, or Leela was with him. Balfour says that it's possible that Kadwell posed as Popic, but no one can be certain (via The Guardian). A note that read, "Gone to Brazil," was left on the front door of their home in Nannup, per ABC.

Without a trace

There are many theories about what happened to these four people. Criminal behavioral psychologist Dr. Kris Geisen tells The Guardian that she thought Kadwell killed the other three and was living under a different identity. But others are not so sure. Landlord Anne Crouch tells The Guardian that while Kadwell was "clueless" and exhibited some kind of control over the others, she didn't think he killed any of them.

Balfour simply doesn't know. "There's no evidence to suggest they are dead, just as there's no evidence to suggest they are alive," he tells Perth Now, adding that the facts "raise more questions than answers." Nannup Shire Deputy President Robin Mellema tells Perth Now that the case was unusual because the four disappeared "without a trace." The 2017 inquest failed to determine if any of the four are dead or alive, and the case is still being investigated as a missing persons case.