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   Inside Out - South West: Monday March 6, 2006

Fake healer

Rhoda Cansick
Catharsis wanted Rhoda Cansick to pay £30,000

Correction - October 2009

Below, we say: "Ruling against him, the US Supreme Court described him as a bigamist who’d entered the country on a false passport and evaded deportation making him a fugitive."

We should have said: "Papers presented to the US Supreme Court by the Department of Justice described him as a bigamist who’d entered the country on a false passport and evaded deportation making him a fugitive."

Inside Out investigates the fake religious healer who conned half a million pounds from hundreds of sick people - and now he's targeting the South West.

Philippe Sauvage (aka Philip Savage) is a French man who claims he can heal everything from terminal illness to the environmental ills of the planet.

But his healing comes at a cost.

Earlier this year, an 81 year old widow had a visitor.

The caller wanted to tell Rhoda Cansick about the incredible powers of Philippe Sauvage.

Rhoda had a bad back and her visitor said that Sauvage could heal it, but she had to go to Switzerland to see him:

"I said how much would it cost to go to Switzerland and that's when she said £30,000. So I said I couldn't afford that. She said I could possibly mortgage my house."

Sauvage charges extraordinary sums because he claims he's superhuman, but we've discovered he is in fact a super conman.

Super healer?

Fifteen years ago, Sauvage appeared on French TV claiming to be a healer.

He showcased people who said they'd been healed by him.

After the show, thousand of viewers contacted Sauvage for help. But it was a sham.

Philippe Sauvage
Philippe Sauvage - set up Catharsis

Doctors could find no evidence to back up his claims and soon hundreds of complaints were made by people who had paid money but not been healed.

In 1995 a French court found Sauvage guilty of a £500,000 fraud. Sauvage was sentenced to five years in jail - but he'd already fled the country.

He turned up in Greenland, and later the United States, claiming asylum.

Ruling against him, the US Supreme Court described him as a bigamist who'd entered the country on a false passport and evaded deportation making him a fugitive.

But while in California, he'd met sociologist Jane Dillon.

Together they set up Catharsis, a not for profit religious corporation promoting Sauvage as a healer and with the stated aim of saving the earth.

The Plymouth connection

Two years ago, a Plymouth couple had a visit from their new neighbour - it was Jane Dillon.

Soon she was a regular visitor, singing the praises of Philippe Sauvage who was now based in Europe.

Simon Rhodes and Viktoria Hartridge were drawn in and started to spread the word about Sauvage across the South West, and eventually persuaded a group of friends to pay Catharsis a fee to meet him.

Simon Rhodes and Viktoria Hartridge
Simon Rhodes and Viktoria Hartridge were drawn in

In total, Simon calculated that he, Viktoria and their friends paid £100,000 in fees to see Philippe Sauvage.

Jenny from West Devon also came to hear of Philippe Sauvage.

In June 2004, Jenny flew to see him in Switzerland where she met Grant and 30 others.

Jenny and Grant paid £7,000 each, and we've evidence that in total at least £150 000 had been paid to Catharsis by members of the group.

Jenny wanted Sauvage to heal an ear condition. Grant wanted help for a friend's sick child back home.

He'd been led to believe that distant healing was well within Sauvage's powers.

Jenny's ear did not improve and Grant came away from meeting Sauvage feeling cheated.

Healing powers?

Eighteen months ago, Sauvage was living in Rome.

Susie Haslam, from East Devon, worked briefly for him as an unpaid nanny, having donated £12,000 to Catharsis.

Susie believes Sauvage knowingly cheats people:

"One evening he actually was talking very freely, joking about various people who had come to him when he was living in France. I was appalled at the way he spoke of them. He was ridiculing them. He was calling them stupid. He was obviously exploiting them."

Some of Sauvage's recent clients were aware of his prosecution in France.

Grant
Grant - paid £7,000 for treatment but felt cheated

But the Catharsis website is littered with supposed medical studies to make him look genuine, like a demonstration of his ability to heal - at a distance - children with severe burns.

A study, Jane Dillon says, was carried out at one of America's top burns units.

But the unit's director, Dr. Peter Grossman, told us Jane Dillon merely asked if she could pray for patients.

He categorically denies being involved in a so-called study or that any "impossible" healing took place.

Catharsis also claims that Sauvage healed a man called Buz Crump of AIDS.

We showed the evidence to a UK expert from the Terrence Higgins Trust who said:

"It was the anti virals the patient was taking that reduced his viral load and that's a standard virological response. It's very common. There's no cure here, and claiming that there is, is fraud."

For Pier Forlani and his family, the price of being involved with Catharsis isn't just financial.

He journeyed 7,000 miles from the west coast of America to Cornwall to fetch his son Christian - a Sauvage devotee.

Christian has had a history of drug abuse and violent behaviour.

Pier fears his son is now suicidal and under huge pressure to raise money for Catharsis.

Christian's agreed to meet a counsellor from a charity which has helped other people reject Sauvage but a few days later Christian returns to Cornwall to live with other followers leaving his father in despair:

"There is no way that he can reject Sauvage by himself, that he can find the strength. He is totally enslaved. It's one of the most frightening and disgusting things I have witnessed in my life."

Recent recruits

Among those who have paid Catharsis are local followers Christopher Layton, from Devon, and Alison McDermott, from Cornwall.

Both are recent recruits who seem to genuinely believe in Sauvage and are happy to recruit others.

We've no evidence the local followers have ever benefited financially or deliberately deceived people, but we want to find out how Catharsis draws others in and set up secret recordings with an actress.

Our actress phones Alison McDermott saying she's struggling to come to terms with widowhood. Alison quickly suggests Sauvage can help.

Later, when they discuss the cost of seeing Sauvage, Alison makes our actress a disturbing offer.

"I could pick you up and take you to the bank, I could do that."

Alison arranges for Christopher Layton to visit.

Mr Layton has been distributing a letter promoting Sauvage - it cites his "clinically attested cures" for aids and cancer.

This claim may breach the Cancer Act which prohibits unqualified people advertising cancer treatment.

Some weeks later, Mr Layton agrees to be interviewed by Inside Out at his home near Tavistock. He claims to have never heard of the Cancer Act, but says:

"If someone who has cancer misses the opportunity to get healed, I don't think it's a good law."

He adds:

"I remain convinced that [Sauvage] is a genuine, a valid healer."

In their telephone call, Alison had insisted our actress call Jane Dillon - who tells her Sauvage can save lives. After a lengthy conversation, Jane finally reveals the cost.

"The minimum to see Philippe is £30,000. Now, that's a health contract."

Denials

Some weeks later Jane Dillon agreed to be interviewed and she denied saying some of the things we'd secretly recorded.

She denies that she'd ever said that Philippe Sauvage saves people from dying but claimed:

"He helps people spiritually, and the results show physically, emotionally, psychologically. That's what he does."

She denies that she'd ever suggest to somebody who was grieving that they should pay £30,000 to see Philippe:

"I don't suggest to anybody. They suggest to me!… I am waiting for someone to give me £14 million so £30,000 could be too little. It could be £30 million!"

And on the Grossman Burn Study? She refuses to accept that the Burns Centre denies ever taking part in such a study.

Miraculous healings

Meanwhile, a number of Sauvage followers, who'd been reluctant to talk to Inside Out, suddenly changed their minds.

One by one they say how wonderful Sauvage is, how he's changed their lives, how they've witnessed miraculous healings.

Pier
Pier - his son denies his account that he was suicidal

Pier's son, Christian, denies Pier's account that he was suicidal and denies he was pressured to raise money for Sauvage.

Pier heads back to the states. He's angry frustrated and still deeply concerned for his son Christian.

"It's a dangerous thing that these guys are doing. It's really, really dangerous.

"I think that most of the people involved believe what they're doing, but the core - Sauvage, Dillon - I think they're ruthless. I think they have a very specific goal and the goal is to make money."

Inside Out asked Philippe Sauvage to respond to the allegations in this programme.

Through Jane Dillon, he said he had nothing to say.

But around the South West and around the world, there are hundreds of people who want answers.

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Inside Out South West - Monday March 6, 2006

 



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