Ordered to sleep with 500 strangers. 9 children by 6 dads. A broken life. The cruel legacy of Britain's most sinister cult
Press » News of the World » 2000-01-09
By John Staples
FOR 18 terrifying and degrading years Jane Brown lived at the dark heart of the sinister Children of God Church.
The wife of one of the notorious sect's leaders, she was transformed from a bright, intelligent young woman into a voracious prostitute and sex slave.
But now she has escaped their evil clutches. And today Jane bravely exposes the chilling truth about a cult infamous for wife-swapping, rape and child abuse.
A broken mother of nine, she reveals how she was brainwashed into the church's sick practice of "Flirty-Fishing" - sleeping with hundreds of men to convert them to the church's British branch.
And she speaks for the first time of her bizarre and depraved daily life as a disciple of the Children of God-or The Family as it now likes to be known. She tells how:
SHE was forced to take part in a sordid hour-long lesbian sex session,
SHE was ordered to bed an endless succession of male disciples after selling her body all day, and
FEMALE sect members stripped naked at a bizarre birthday party for boss David Berg.
"In the morning we would dress in our bland clothing of sneakers, jeans and sweaters for a singing and prayers session called Devotion," says Jane. But in the late afternoon it was time to prepare to "spread the word".
And petite, well-spoken Jane would slip out of her jeans and into stockings and suspenders. Off came her sneakers and on went a pair of stilettos.
"I used to change into a little strappy dress with a jacket and high heels," says Jane. "I became a prostitute for the church. I slept with over 500 men and charged them Pounds 100 a time-half of which went to the church.
"Afterwards I would then try to tell the man I slept with about Jesus. I managed to convert about one of them every two weeks or so.
"At the time there were about 200 girls from The Family working in London who offered spiritual advice after sex-there must have been a lot of confused punters out there."
JANE smiles wryly at her half-hearted joke- but it cannot mask the cruel legacy of her years with the secret worldwide cult launched by American hippy David Berg.
Her nine children were born of SIX different fathers-two of them the result of her sessions as a prostitute.
"Contraception was frowned upon in The Family and we were always told that abortion was wrong," says Jane. "I had unprotected sex with many clients."
One child is from her marriage to US commune leader James Bennett who helped lure her into the church. Now she and her children are outcasts. Her whole life is tinged with bitter regret.
"I was unloved and vulnerable when they found me," she says. "They promise to offer you all the love you need-but they want your soul."
The fact that Jane is an intelligent woman is frightening-and chilling proof of the awesome power the cult holds over its members.
A power unquestioned by female disciples when David Berg ordered them to start Flirty-Fishing or "F-F-ing"-using sex to win converts.
The saying comes from Matthew, Chapter Four verse 19, which reads: Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.
"I know it sounds unbelievable but at the time no matter how much I did not enjoy selling my body I honestly believed in what I was doing," says Jane, now 46.
"I thought it was helping The Family. We were told Jesus was prepared to die on the cross for us.
"If he could do this then surely we would be prepared to use our bodies to win new disciples."
YOUNG Jane was even prepared to perform lewd sexual acts with other women for the "faith".
"Once I had to see a client who wanted two girls," says Jane.
"When we got to this guy's flat he asked us to make love to each other. I didn't enjoy it as I am not bisexual. We spent an hour caressing and fondling while he watched. But I thought I was doing the right thing."
The right thing no matter how dangerous the twilight world of prostitution could become.
"There was one client who told me he wanted to torture me," says Jane. "He asked if he could really hurt me-I left straight away.
"Once I was caught soliciting by a policeman who made me perform oral sex on him to avoid being arrested.
"Another guy liked to use amyl nitrate which heightens sexual performance. It gave him so much stamina he could go on forever. I couldn't wait until it was over." And on the nights when she wasn't out hunting converts, an exhausted Jane was forced into "sharing" herself with other disciples. "In some places it was almost like picking dates from a hat- there could be as many as 30 people to a house," says Jane. "It happened to me two or three times a week.
"There was a home where they had magnetic names on a board and just swapped them around."
THERE, the shep-herd-the leader -would decide who slept with who that night, says Jane.
And the women unlucky enough to live at Berg's communes in the US had to pander to his every whim. Jane said: "For his birthday one year all the girls sat around the table topless and walked round naked." Girl members were also forced to bear child after child. "You weren't allowed to use contraceptives," she added. "That was their way of keeping you in the sect.
"You would practically become a baby machine. And with all those children you would have to rely on The Family for support." Support was just what Jane was looking for as a single 22-year-old mum.
Her parents were virtual strangers who had put her in boarding school while they went to live in Malaysia. She met cult members while wandering with her four-year-old through Huntingdon, Cambs.
Within weeks half a dozen of them moved into Jane's tiny two-bedroomed council bungalow in the nearby village of Brampton. Soon she was caught. "They kept telling me Jesus was my saviour and I wanted to believe," says Jane.
For the next four years she lived with the group whose "bible" consisted of letters of instruction sent from the now dead Californian founder Berg. Jane became known by the biblical name Bethany and married the commune leader James-known as Alias. They moved to a home in Birmingham.
"Alias told me I must devote my life to God," says Jane. "Then he would bring back single mothers from the city centre and have sex with them."
Jane split with Alias and took up with another disciple called John.
By 1981 she had four children and was living in a commune in Bayswater, west London. Then the cult ordered its female members to become prostitutes.
"They used phrases like 'Jesus laid down his life for you so why don't you lay down your wife'," says Jane, who went on to live at homes in Didcot, Oxon, and Tewkesbury, Gloucs, before leaving the church.
AS she sits surrounded by her family in her new home near Cinderford, Gloucs, Jane's worst memories are of the sect's treatment of children.
"The leaders would 'retrain' children-which consisted of beating them. It happened to my daughter and she still suffers from it now," she says.
"Two years ago I broke away with all my kids. They are aged five to 28. Some are thankfully too young to remember. But it is obviously very hard on them that they will never meet their father."
So the little children continue to suffer- to the indifference of the cruel cult.
As for Jane, she may have fled their clutches... but she can never escape her past.