Thursday, September 11, 2008

Sex assault victim 'paid men to lift curses'

Two Sydney men have been charged with more than 220 sex offences against a young woman during 'prayer sessions' to remove curses.

Police say the men, aged 61 and 38, are highly regarded members of the Greek Orthodox and Coptic Orthodox communities.

The young woman has told police she went to numerous 'prayer sessions' at various hotels between 2001 and 2005 where she was blindfolded and sexually assaulted

Police say the victim believed she and her family had been cursed by a member of the Greek community and they would suffer consequences, including death and illness, if the curse was not removed.

It is alleged she paid the men up to $70,000 over four years for the sessions.

Strike force detectives arrested the men at their homes in Dulwich Hill and Enfield this morning and took them to Burwood Police Station

The 61-year-old Dulwich Hill man was charged with 151 sexual offences while the 38-year-old father of three from Enfield faces 79 charges.

Police allege the Dulwich Hill man claimed to be a spiritual mentor who was able to speak to angels, remove curses and banish evil spirits.

Last June, detectives arrested and charged the same men - and the Enfield man's wife - with similar offences in relation to a 40-year-old woman.

Police say both victims are from religious families raised to believe in the Orthodox faith, including the evil eye.

In a statement, Acting Superintendent Gary Bailey said police cannot rule out the possibility of other victims.

"These victims are from religious families," he said.

"Two extremely courageous women have already come forward with information which has led to the arrests of these two men.

"We will allege these women have been the cruel prey of callous individuals who used religious fear to manipulate and abuse them for their sexual gratification and financial gain.

"Sexual offences are heinous but an offender who hides behind the cloak of religious respectability is particularly vile."

The pair are expected to appear at Burwood Local Court later today.


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