The decayed remains of at least one baby have allegedly been found buried in a coffin-like box at the headquarters of secretive religious sect Twelve Tribes.
Two police raids at Peppercorn Creek Farm in Picton and at a 78.5-hectare property near Bigga, south-west of Sydney, began on Monday.
The operation is part of an ongoing investigation into the high number of stillbirths within the community which rejects modern medicine and technology.
Excavation of the property was suspended after the alleged find on Wednesday afternoon, according to the Daily Telegraph.
Sources told the publication it was too early to tell whether the remains were of one or two infants, and the delicate retrieval process was delayed by heavy downpour.
Police have allegedly uncovered the remains of at least one infant at the headquarters of religious sect Twelve Tribes in Bigga, New South Wales (pictured)
New South Wales Police will not yet publicly comment on the operation, which was suspended on Thursday.
‘There are no further updates in relation to Strike Force Nanegai at this time,’ NSW Police said in a statement.
Three graves have been uncovered at the Bigga site – which has no running water or electricity and is only used when members of the secretive sect are exiled for questioning their beliefs, A Current Affair reported.
Police raids began at Peppercorn Creek Farm in Picton and a 78.5-hectare property near Bigga (pictured), southwest of Sydney, on Monday
Twelve Tribes is guarded about its privacy and members of the sect are expected to live by a set of rigid guidelines which govern almost every aspect of their daily lives
The raid comes after former member Rosemary Cruzado told the publication her late-term stillborn baby was buried at the Bigga property.
She believes her baby’s death could have been avoided if she had seen a modern doctor earlier in her pregnancy.
Twelve Tribes has been investigated by police since September 2019.
The sect is a registered religious charity and has been in Australia since the ’90s.
It has about 90 members in its Picton, Katoomba and Coledale communes and runs cafes in Sydney and the Blue Mountains.
The sect does not align itself with any denomination.
Members believe the Messiah will return if the church is restored to its original form in the Book of Acts – the first book in the new testament of the Bible.
Twelve Tribes has been guarded about its privacy and members are expected to live by a set of rigid guidelines which govern almost every aspect of their lives.
Communication with the outside world is largely forbidden and women are expected to be subservient to men and everyone must marry within the group.
What is Twelves Tribes?
The commune began in 1975 in Chattanooga, Tennessee, when former carnival showman Gene Spriggs broke away from the First Presbyterian Church after finding services were cancelled for the Super Bowl.
He and his wife Marsha earlier opened the first Yellow Deli a few years earlier and were living communally with a small group from 1972.
Twelve Tribes practices a hybrid of pre-Catholic Christianity and Judaism mixed with teachings by Spriggs.
The group’s stated aim is to bring about the return of Jesus – whom they refer to by the Hebrew name Yahshua – by reestablishing the 12 tribes of Israel.
Twelve Tribes practices a hybrid of pre-Catholic Christianity and Judaism mixed with teachings by its founder, Gene Spriggs
All members are forced to sell their possessions and give to proceeds to the sect and are assigned a Hebrew name discard their old ones. Spriggs himself is known as Yoneq.
These tribes would include 144,000 ‘perfect male children’, which accounts for the group’s obsessive and controversial child-rearing practices.
The Sabbath is observed in line with Jewish tradition, along with conservative dietary rules and abstinence from alcohol, tobacco, and drugs.
Birth control of any kind is banned, as is much modern medicine – they instead rely largely on homeopathy and ‘natural’ remedies.
Marriage outside the sect is forbidden and couples must go through a series of supervised talks to get to know each other. Only after marriage can they even kiss or hold hands.
These tribes would include 144,000 ‘perfect male children’, which accounts for the group’s obsessive and controversial child-rearing practices
Children aren’t allowed to play with toys, engage in make-believe, or any of the normal childhood activities, and must be supervised at all times.
They must be strictly obedient and are beaten with a 50cm rod for every infraction by any adult watching them, not just their parents.
All children are homeschooled and do not attend university as it is considered a waste of time and not a good environment.
Instead, children work in the community from a young age, sparking accusations of child labour.
Estée Lauder and other businesses cut ties with the organisation after finding children were involved in making their products.
The few boxes of pamphlets would be easily missed or glossed over by the vast majority of visitors
Members don’t vote and are not allowed to watch TV or any other media as ‘the crazy box robs your time and pollutes your soul’.
Twelve Tribes has 3,000 members and operates in the U.S., Canada, France, Spain, Argentina, Brazil, Germany and England, arriving in Australia in the early 1990s.
There are now about 120 members living in Balmoral House in Katoomba, Peppercorn Creek Farm near Picton, and a small number in Coledale, north of Wollongong.
Numerous businesses include a network of cafes in every country, all called the Yellow Deli or Common Ground, and bakeries, farms, and furniture, construction, and demolition businesses.
These are believed to be very profitable because none of the workers need to be paid.