'I lost husband, home and almost my sanity to cult'
The Essex Chronicle/1999-02-25
Four weeks ago Brentwood councillors agreed a motion put forward by disaffected Conservative, Cllr Tony Galbraith, to investigate the dangers of religious cults. The news prompted Irene Fearn, of Ingatestone, whose husband, Peter, succumbed to the attractions of the Children of God, a South American based religious organisation 14 years ago, to tell her story.
Here she speaks to Gazette reporter, Sheelagh Bree, on how the group - labelled a "notorious cult" by The Times in October, l985 when reporting on her situation - changed her life
Support your local councillors is the plea from Irene Fearn who believes she probably knows more about religious cults than anyone in Brentwood.
She said: "This is a result of my husband's involvement in one and my years of research which followed his disappearance in South America.
"People may recall my story in The Times under the headline Hunt for the Lost Child of God.
"It was also widely reported in other national and local newspapers in this country and around the world.
"Peter, my husband, had become ensnared by a religious cult while on business for the Ford Motor Company in Brazil.
"When, over a few weeks he became obsessed with religion I reported him sick. Eventually he left the company and I was left alone to pick up the pieces. Fourteen years is a long time ago but to me it seems like only yesterday. "The evils of that cult, the practices employed by it, the treachery and the lies that followed, I have to live with every day of my life. I lost my husband, my lovely home in Coggeshall and almost my sanity! In addition, because I fought the cult, my legal costs were in excess of £35,000."
During her trauma Irene was supported by Bishop John Waine, then Bishop of Chelmsford, who made his maiden speech in the House of Lords about her plight, he urged her to keep up her efforts to "warn the unsuspecting and the complacent of the dangers which may confront those who might be influenced by these cults." Lord Denning, who has just died, was also a regular correspondent. He kept her letters in a large file with many others from people concerned about cult involvement.
He wrote to her: "You are most instructive and helpful. I think that all you are doing is of great value. You are very courageous."
Irene also emphasised that she was given "wonderful support" by her then MP, Tony Newton.
She said: "I would say to the people of Brentwood, remember cults are not interested in helping you but in helping themselves - mainly to get rich. That is my personal experience.
"To quote an ex-member of The Children of God, who was with my husband in the cult in South America and knew him well, "man's soul is still the highest bidding merchandise in the world."