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Alleged Former Cult Member Charged With Killing Her Own Daughter Three Decades Ago

by : Lisa McLoughlin on :
Alleged Former Cult Member Charged With Killing Her Own Daughter Three Decades Ago
Alleged Former Cult Member Charged With Killing Her Own Daughter Three Decades Ago (NSW Police/ABC)

An alleged former cult member has been charged with killing her two-year-old daughter, Tillie, over three decades ago.

Ellen Craig, who left Australia for New Zealand following Tillie’s disappearance, was extradited to Sydney on Thursday after being arrested in Palmerston North, north of Wellington.

The arrest comes almost 35 years after the toddler was allegedly fatally assaulted and her remains disposed of at a rural property at Porters Retreat near Oberon in 1987.

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The property served as the headquarters of the cult The Ministry of God, which was run at the time by Alfio Nicolosi, also known as Alexander Wilon.

Tillie was allegedly fatally assaulted in 1987 (Credit: ABC)
Tillie was allegedly fatally assaulted in 1987 (Credit: ABC)

Police will allege the 60-year-old was a follower of the cult and used a piece of plastic tubing to beat her daughter to death when they lived near the headquarters in July or August 1987.

Nicolosi will also be accused of helping to dispose the girl's remains by burning her body and placing it in a 44-gallon drum, which was then dropped into a river.

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New South Wales authorities claimed that beatings were a common practice within the cult's sadistic rituals.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Homicide Squad Commander Detective Superintendent Danny Doherty said: "Police will allege… there are some other beatings, there were some teachings and beliefs through the cult that it was necessary to beat the children, for whatever reasons.

"There was an influence from the cult leader.”

Porters Retreat near Oberon in NSW was searched last year (Credit: NSW Police)
Porters Retreat near Oberon in NSW was searched last year (Credit: NSW Police)
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Tillie's biological father Gerard Stanhope was led to believe she had been given up for adoption and was living with another 'unidentified couple' at the time of her disappearance.

In October 2019, Strike Force Bertrand was launched after police received information relating to Tillie’s alleged death at Porters Retreat.

Two years on from setting up the task force, NSW Police searched Nicolosi's property about 42km south of Oberon, in NSW's Central Tablelands, last year.

Although Tillie’s remains weren’t found, officers seized several items, including a gun, while police divers searched the surrounding creeks.

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Then in November 2021, homicide squad detectives arrested the former cult leader and applied to have Craig extradited to Australia.

The woman was extradited to Sydney escorted by police officers (NSW Police)
The woman was extradited to Sydney escorted by police officers (NSW Police)

Following the arrests, Det. Supt. Doherty praised the efforts of investigators for their hard work over the past two years.

He began: “Strike Force Bertrand detectives have conducted an extensive, thorough and protracted investigation into this alleged murder that occurred more than three decades ago.

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“These allegations were only brought to the attention of NSW Police in October 2019, and it is due to the tenacity and dedication of our officers, that two individuals have now been charged.

“The level of violence allegedly used upon this child is abhorrent and left a father without his daughter or knowledge of her death for 34 years.

“The NSW Police Force will always thoroughly investigate new information relating to historical alleged crimes and have worked tirelessly to ensure justice is finally served for this little girl.”

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