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Cult Kidnap Boy Aged 16


Members of a religious cult were being hunted by police last night after they
were accused of kidnapping a 16-year-old schoolboy.

Bobby Kelly was made a ward of court on Wednesday because of concern for his
safety at the hands of the Jesus Christians.

Last night his photograph was circulated to police and a watch was being kept at
airports and docks because of fears the cult was planning to take him out of the
country.

His grandmother, Ruth, 58, said: ''He told me in a phone call that the Jesus
Christians have told him he must give up everything, including his family.''

Solicitor Clare Kirby, who specialises in cases against cults, is acting for the
family. She said: ''It is scary stuff. These people can turn people's minds in
just 24 hours.''

The police hunt was launched as campaigners urged the Government to make it
illegal for religious cults to prey on the young and vulnerable. Graham Baldwin,
whose charity Catalyst was set up to help the families of people caught up in
cults, said: ''The case illustrates how these people target young people. Bobby
was under their spell within a few hours.

''We had gone shopping in Romford,'' she said, ''and Bobby later told me about the
man and said he was a Christian like he was. Bobby was a member of a local
church. That afternoon he said he was going out and then when he came home he
announced that he was going to join these people.''

She met them a few days later and quickly became suspicious of the group - an
Australian couple with a little boy, a German and two Englishmen. They were
travelling around in a white Leyland Daf van, registration number [EDIT].

Bobby's grandmother said: ''They took his TV and video and wanted to take other
things belonging to Bobby from my flat but I banned them. They wanted his bank
book - not that there is anything in it - and they were trying to get him a
passport to take him abroad. They would not let him speak to me on his own. I
tried. But he said he had to have one of the group with him all the time.''

David Whitehouse, a youth worker at St Peter's Church in Harold Wood, Essex,
which Bobby attended, said: ''He is a typical cheeky teenager and will talk to
anybody and that's what happened here.

''This group has a veneer of respectability but there is something very
disturbing about them. When I saw Bobby a week ago he was with three of them and
he seemed very scared, which was unlike him.''

Last year the Jesus Christians were involved in another incident with a young
student in Guildford, Surrey, which is thought to be the home of one of the
group.

Mother Bernadette Sheridan reported her son Kyri, 19, missing. When she tried to
snatch him back during a meeting in Guildford the police were called and she was
arrested. Bernadette told how when she finally made contact with her son he was
like a zombie with staring eyes. A member of the cult who was with him told her:
''He's not your son any more. Your job is finished, he's ours now.'' She has not
seen him since that meeting a year ago.

The Jesus Christians are a breakaway group of the discredited Children of God
cult. It is a small group headed by Australian David McKay. It has its own web
site which is monitored by Mr Baldwin of Catalyst.

The group's literature calls on converts to forsake their jobs, family and
friends. ''God is now your Boss and he has a new job for you that will not wait,''
says the leaflet handed out by cult members.

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