Breakthrough in cold case murder of two-year-old girl as ‘cult follower’ is brought back to Australia from New Zealand under police escort
- A 60-year-old woman has been extradited from New Zealand on murder charge
- Ellen Craig is charged with murdering her two year old daughter in 1987
- When Tillie vanished distraught birth father thought she’d been taken to NZ
- Mother was living in Ministry of God cult run by guru Alfio Nicolosi
- Nicolosi aka Alexander Wilon charged with accessory after fact to murder
- Wilon also charged with misconduct with regard to a corpse
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Ellen Craig, 60, arrived under police guard on Thursday morning after being arrested in Palmerston North, north of Wellington, over the death of her daughter Tillie in 1987.
Police will allege Ms Craig was a follower of the Ministry of God cult, which was run at the time by Alfio Nicolosi, also known as Alexander Wilon. Nicolosi/Wilon has been charged with accessory after the fact to murder and misconduct with regard to a corpse.
Back then, Nicolosi/Wilon claimed to possess divine powers and said his followers should obey the word of God or be punished.
Wilon, who his followers knew as ‘Papa’, would preach the word of God and claim to pass on divine messages from an oracle known as ‘Monet’.
Ellen Craig (above with baby Tillie) left Australia in 1987 but has now been extradited back to Sydney and charged with her two-year-old’s alleged murder in 1987
Tillie Craig went to live in the Ministry of God cult near Oberon NSW with her mother, a cult follower of leader known as ‘Papa’ who claimed to possess divine powers
Alfio Nicolosi (centre) aka Alexander Wilon ran the Ministry of God cult in which he passed on divine messages from an oracle known as ‘Monet’ and told followers to obey the word of God or be punished
Last year NSW Police searched Wilon’s property at Porters Retreat about 42km south of Oberon, in NSW’s Central Tablelands but found no remains of toddler Tillie Craig.
Homicide squad detectives arrested Wilon last November and applied to have Craig extradited to Australia.
The arrests come after Strike Force Betrand was launched in October 2019 after police received information relating to the alleged murder of Tillie at Porters Retreat in 1987.
A 70-year-old man has been arrested at a Porters Retreat property (pictured) over the alleged murder of a little girl in 1987
NSW Police carried out a search warrant on the NSW Central Tablelands property (pictured) on Tuesday as part of Strike Force Bertrand
Detectives were told the toddler was allegedly fatally assaulted by Craig around July of that year and that Wilon/Nicolosi allegedly helped the woman dispose of the child’s remains.
Around the time Craig left Australia for New Zealand, Tillie’s biological father Gerard Stanhope had been in a desperate search for his daughter and believed she may have been taken out of the country.
Cold case detectives carried out a search warrant at the Porters Retreat property , with police divers scouring surrounding creeks as officers seizing a number of items, including a gun.
Homicide Squad Commander, Detective Superintendent Danny Doherty, praised the efforts of investigators for their tenacity during their inquiries over the past two years.
‘Strike Force Bertrand detectives have conducted an extensive, thorough and protracted investigation into this alleged murder that occurred more than three decades ago,’ Det Supt Doherty said.
Police officers examine a number of items found on the property, including a gun
‘These allegations were only brought to the attention of NSW Police in October 2019, and it is due to the tenacity and dedication of our officers, that two individuals have now been charged.
‘The level of violence allegedly used upon this child is abhorrent and left a father without his daughter or knowledge of her death for 34 years.
‘The NSW Police Force will always thoroughly investigate new information relating to historical alleged crimes and have worked tirelessly to ensure justice is finally served for this little girl,’ Det Supt Doherty said.