The children believed they were brothers and sisters and thought Anne and Bill Hamilton-Byrne were their parents until they were rescued by police and the cult was broken up."The Family" is also the story of the incredible determination of a detective in Australia and an agent at the FBI who joined forces to bring the Hamilton-Byrnes before a judge.
"My whole life was wrapped up in this investigation," says Lex de Man, a former detective with the Victoria Police Department in Melbourne, Australia.
Sarah Moore: During my birth a pillow was put over her head, she was given major tranquilizers and as soon as I was born I was taken away instantly. Anne Hamilton-Byrne did have one child of her own; a daughter, who was a young adult by the time Hamilton-Byrne started her cult. because Auntie Anne was actually naturally a red headed [sic]. "The cult's home movies made it seem like a paradise, but Sarah Moore and Anouree Treena-Byrne say they were carefully orchestrated.
Innocent victims -- children who had no choice -- and true believers who de Man says fell under the spell of Anne Hamilton-Byrne, a one-time yoga teacher-turned-cult leader who convinced followers she was the female reincarnation of Jesus Christ. Dave Whitaker: Because the end of the world was coming. There were 28 children in all, ranging from toddlers to teens.Leeanne Creese: Anne showed them to her followers … …So these nurses would put him outside in the cold at night.showing off to the world that she's normal with lots of children -- lots of happy children. Hamilton-Byrne -- who would never be mistaken for Julie Andrews -- nonetheless dreamed her children could one day become Australia's version of the Von Trapp family from the film "The Sound of Music."Adam Lancaster: We were brought up that we've had many millions of lives. Anouree Treena-Byrne: One could never be sure what could happen next … Michael Stevenson-Helmer: Anne was waiting for me, and just welcomed me, and took me in …Now, some of those children are speaking out about Hamilton-Byrne's attempt to build a perfect race through a collection of children -- some of whom were forced to have their hair bleached blonde, were home-schooled on an isolated property, and were injected with LSD as part of an initiation ritual.The harsh treatment was carried out by some of the women known as "Aunties," loyal cult members who lived with and taught the children.Adam Lancaster: Most of the population of the world's going to perish … They only learned the truth of their lives much later.Sarah Moore: The cult doctor arranged for my biological mother to be … Sarah Moore, who had believed Anne Hamilton-Byrne was her birth mother, only learned the truth when she was an adult.Leeanne Creese lived in the cult from her birth until she was 17 years old. Michael Stevenson-Helmer: She just radiated out, don't you know that? Even those who later broke away from The Family are still awed by Anne's seductive strengths.Leeanne Creese: The women that looked after us were called Aunties … Adam Lancaster: When Auntie Anne walked into a room, you knew she was there …she had the airs and the graces of the Queen of England. and the father worked on the railways and was absent a lot of the time …In fact, Hamilton-Byrne told her devoted believers that she descended from royalty. Leeanne Creese: …we all believed as children that she had … But Anne Hamilton-Byrne's childhood was far from perfect … She came from an extremely impoverished and horrible background.