UK

'Guru' jailed for attacking women

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Media captionCult victim: "He was sicker than we were smart"

A man described as a "sexual predator masquerading as a guru and healer" has been jailed for 10 years for attacking two women.

Michael Lyons, who adopted the name Mohan Singh, preyed on women who came to him for spiritual guidance.

He had created a tight-knit group described as a 'cult' made up predominantly of female followers.

At Wood Green Crown Court, Lyons, of Kilburn, north London, was convicted of one rape and one assault.

He was also made the subject of a sexual offences prevention order which stops him from touching any female he has known for less than six months. He was placed on the sex offenders register for life.

The jury heard women were invited to Lyons' gatherings with offers of communal food and enlightenment. There they would be given treatments and assaulted.

In an extraordinary four-month trial Lyons, who wore flowing crimson and yellow robes, did not give evidence but called 50 witnesses in his defence, many of whom were his followers.

Some claimed that he could cure cancer and one was convinced that he had X-ray vision.

Lyons, who purported to be a naturopath skilled in osteopathy, acupuncture and nutrition, had homes in London, Salford, Los Angeles and Miami.

He would tell women either that he knew spiritual leaders, or that he was well connected in Hollywood and knew celebrities such as the film star Stephen Seagal with whom he had been photographed.

It also emerged that in the late 1970s Lyons had been a follower of Osho, the spiritual leader otherwise known as the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, who taught his devotees that promiscuity was the path to enlightenment.

Osho's followers famously vowed to buy him a Rolls Royce for every day of the year, but ran out of money after 93 days.

Image caption Lyons went to enormous lengths to avoid being photographed when travelling to court

Lyons went to enormous lengths not to be photographed or filmed when travelling to and from court. His followers, who attended with him each day, would carry out surveillance of the streets around the court.

On one occasion a BBC film crew was waiting at the one exit to the court building, but he failed to appear. After making enquiries the BBC was told that Lyons, who is a Jamaican-born black man, had had clothes and make-up smuggled into the court and left either as a white man, or white woman.

Detective Sergeant Nicholas Giles, who led the investigation of Lyons for three years, said: 'We heard in evidence that Lyons used a programme of sleep deprivation, psychological harassment as well as group social pressure. He sexually assaulted victims during this process."

Eleven women from the UK, the US and New Zealand gave evidence against Lyons, who denied all the offences.

The judge, Nicholas Browne QC, was particularly scathing of the methods by which female followers of Lyons introduced victims to him. The predominantly-female gatherings made women entering the group feel artificially safe, court heard.

"Women's groups everywhere will be shocked and appalled. This is a complete betrayal of women by women," said the judge.

Lyons was acquitted of three rapes and a sexual assault. A further rape and sexual assault remain on file.