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New hope to find missing cult members

Written by on May 18, 2024

In 2007, four members of a doomsday cult, Chantelle McDougall, her daugther Leela McDougall, Antonio Konstantin Popic and Gary Felton, disappeared from the small picturesque town of Nannup in WA’s southwest.

A coronial inquest was held a decade later into their suspected deaths but it could not be established beyond reasonable doubt what happened to the missing group.

Now the uncle of Chantelle and her daughter Leela, who were aged 27 and 6-years old when they disappeared, is about to launch a new investigation into their disappearance.

Retired Victorian police officer Barry McIntosh is raising funds to travel to WA in July to launch new inquiries into the disappearance of his niece and her daughter.

“My sister and brother in law, Cathy and Jimmy McDougall have lived for the last 17 years without knowing where their daughter and granddaughter are and what their fate was,” he said on his Go Fund Me page.

“It is presumed they are deceased and buried somewhere in the Western Australia bush.”

The inquest into their suspected deaths heard how Mr Felton, who was also known as Simon Kadwell, was a “self-styled spiritual leader” who had a global following on the internet.

The group started telling family and friends in 2006 that they were moving to Brazil, and sold some of their possessions before the disappeared in July the following year.

Chantelle’s father reported them missing in October 2007 with serious concerns for the welfare of his daughter and granddaughter.

The WA Police carried out 444 investigations into the missing group but there was no trace of their movements or whereabouts.

The inquest found that Mr Felton, the leader of the group, had stolen the identity of a former colleague Simon Kadwell in England some years prior and managed to obtain a UK passport in that name.

He travelled extensively under the false identity and came to Australia in 1997 with a woman he met in India.

Mr Felton published books about his beliefs and created a website The Truth Fellowship and online chat forums where he encouraged people to follow him.

There were emails from Mr Felton that the group had planned a suicide, and that Mr Popic would bury their bodies in the bush before killing himself in the “wilderness” so no one would discover his body.

In the days before they disappeared there were several sightings, phone calls and interactions with the group, selling some of their possessions.

An unidentified person called TransWA from the house and went to a visitors centre in a nearby town to buy a ticket to travel from Bridgetown to Northcliffe in regional WA, in the name of J Roberts, which was never used.

Mr Popic appeared in the Margaret River Magistrates Court in relation to a disorderly behaviour charge where he plead guilty.

A person believed to be Chantelle rang Telstra to disconnect the phone line.

In Perth, about 266 kilometres north of Nannup, a person bought a ticket to travel to Kalgoorlie by train on the morning of July 16, 2007 in the name of J Roberts.

Mr Popic’s mobile phone and identity was used to order pizza, book hotel rooms and a taxi.

On the morning of July 16, 2007, another ticket was purchased for J Roberts to travel from Perth to Northcliffe, via Bunbury. An adult male took that trip.

That same day, an adult male used the ticket purchased in the name of J Roberts to travel to Kalgoorlie.

The inquest found that the identities of the people who travelled on July 16 were “a mystery within a mystery.”

Mr McIntosh now plans to carry out his own investigation after police and coronial inquiries were unable to draw any conclusions about whether the four missing people were dead or alive.