Missing girl found with jungle cult
Leader allegedly used social media to entice young women to join him as he claimed he had been ‘chosen to repopulate the Earth’ after the apocalypse
By Alex Watkins PERUVIAN police have located a young Spanish woman who had been convinced to leave her home in Elche in January 2017 by the leader of a sect from the South American country.
Family spokeswoman Noelia Bru told state news agency EFE that Patricia Aguilar had just turned 18 at the time.
She was found last Wednesday in a shack in the small town of San Martín de Pangoa in Satipo, one of Peru’s most dangerous regions where drug trafficking groups and remnants of the Shining Path terrorist organisation are active.
Sra Aguilar was the only adult there and looking after five children, including her own one-month-old baby, who were not attending school and living in unhygienic conditions. The operation was instigated by the Peruvian prosecutor for human trafficking as a result of the family’s tenacity to get her back, noted Sra Bru.
The leader of the so-called Gnosis cult, Félix Steven Manrique was found and arrested several kilometres away in the company of two other women – one of them eight-months pregnant – who were ‘very skinny and bore signs of violence’.
Manrique, who is aged 35 and likely to be the father of these children, faces an accusation of human trafficking for sexual and labour exploitation and the public prosecutor has issued a warrant for his arrest.
More charges are likely to be added, including child neglect, and two other alleged victims are now being investigated at the request of their families.
He allegedly used social media to entice young women to run away and join him in Peru, as he claimed to have been chosen to repopulate the Earth after the apocalypse.
According to Sra Bru, he had been enamoured with Patricia since she was 16, taking advantage of the fact she had lost a very close relative, but waited until she was 18 to convince her to leave.
“He won her over by claiming she had a mission in the world and would find salvation,” she said.
A few months ago, after being located in Peru, Patricia published videos assuring she was not being held against her will.
The Peruvian ministry for women has offered protection and medical assistance to all of them. Sra Aguilar’s family are ‘looking for the best way’ to bring her back to Spain, according to their lawyer from the NGO SOS Desaparecidos, but noted that the baby ‘makes it much more difficult’.
Lawyer María Teresa Rojas explained the baby had been wrapped in a small cloth and was covered in insect bites, while the children were dirty and malnourished as ‘it seems they were only taken food once a week’.
She said Sra Aguilar is staying at a shelter and undergoing psychological and medical examinations, and her father has only been able to see her from a distance without establishing contact.
Patricia Aguilar and baby