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'Harem' deserts convicted guru

AAP, The Age, Friday 4 August 2000

The ageing guru of a religious cult convicted of molesting four girls had now been deserted by his harem of nine wives and the dozens of children he had fathered, Melbourne County Court heard yesterday.

Alistah Laishkochav, 71, was convicted on Monday on 20 charges of sexually abusing four young girls near Geelong.

At a pre-sentencing hearing yesterday, Laishkochav's barrister Keith Boulton said his client now had contact with just two sons of the 63 children he fathered and was a lonely old man with no assets.

The trial was told that New Zealand-born Laishkochav, formerly known as Ian Lowe, attracted followers because of his spiritual powers and beliefs based on Jewish, Muslim and Mormon religions.

Mr Boulton said Laishkochav, who gave some of his wives and children Hawaiian names, was an admirer of the lifestyle of the South Sea Islands.

The four girls were assaulted by Laishkochav at the cult's four-hectare property at Bells Beach, near Geelong, between 1987 and 1991.

Mr Boulton said Laishkochav had possessed a strong charismatic personality and he had taken his role as patriarch seriously, caring for his wives and children. But now, Mr Boulton said Laishkochav had suffered the loss of his family, however unusual that family was.

Mr Boulton said that since being imprisoned following the verdict, Laishkochav had received death threats and had been spat on. He urged the judge, to bear in mind his client's age and health in sentencing.

Judge Mervyn Kimm will deliver a sentence on August 11.