Cult founder warned off after 'bizarre' audition ploy
August 27, 2008
ALISON PELS thought she had finally escaped the grasp of the cult Kenja Communications when she left the group in February last year.
But six months later the then 20-year-old found herself the subject of a bizarre plot by Jan Hamilton and other members of the group, who disguised themselves with fake facial hair and wigs while posing as directors of a play.
Ms Hamilton co-founded Kenja with her late husband, Ken Dyers, who committed suicide last year amid allegations of multiple sex offences against children.
Ms Pels, who has given the Herald permission to name her, was among those who made allegations against him.
Ms Hamilton was yesterday ordered by a court not to stalk, harass or intimidate Ms Pels as part of a two-year apprehended violence order, made after Ms Hamilton and Kenja members had staged fake auditions for a performance of Chekhov's Three Sisters at the West Pymble Community Hall on October 17 last year.
Outside court Ms Pels, whose father and brother left Kenja but whose mother remains a member, said she had recognised two Kenja members in the audition room and became extremely distressed.
"My whole body had shut down, I was in absolute terror," she said.
"In my mind it wasn't just that they were trying to scare me, I thought that they were going to kill me."
Ms Pels's lawyer, Brett Longville, told the court that Ms Hamilton's actions were a "sinister" attempt to harass and intimidate Ms Pels for making the allegations against her late husband.
But Ms Hamilton's lawyer, Harland Koops, said Ms Pels was a "habitual liar", who had staged the audition process and her subsequent distress in an attempt to cause serious criminal charges to be laid upon Ms Hamilton.
He said Ms Hamilton and other Kenja members had been at her Surry Hills home on the night in question. He produced a video of the group purportedly taken on that night.
However the magistrate, Roger Clisdell, found that the video, which included a shot of a wall clock and close-up of a newspaper showing the date, was a "child-like" attempt at providing an alibi for those members.
He said the video as well as the "hoax audition" had the "bizarre hallmarks" of the Kenja group and he did not find any witnesses from the group, including Ms Pels's mother, Marty, to be reliable.
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