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Friend who tried to rescue girl from cult is cleared of kidnap

Daily Mail, 15 March 1995, Pg. 24, Copyright 1995 Associated Newspapers Ltd.

    A SHOP manager was cleared yesterday of trying to kidnap a 'brainwashed'
member of the controversial Church of Scientology.

    Stephen Cooper, 27, claimed he tried to rescue his former flatmate Kathleen 
Wilson because the sect had changed her personality.

    He also said her elderly mother Margaret was worried about Miss Wilson, who 
was intending to go to Los Angeles for 'further training'.
    John Tanzer, defending, compared Mr Cooper's actions at the sect's Saint
Hill Manor headquarters in East Grinstead, Sussex, to saving a woman as she
tried to jump off a ten-storey building.

    He said: 'Our case is simply that Kathleen Wilson was a victim, that she was
deprived of her own free will and that Mr Cooper sought to rescue her.'

    After a jury at Lewes Crown Court cleared Mr Cooper of attempted kidnap and 
affray, 23-year-old Miss Wilson said: 'I feel insulted.

    'They are saying that I am brainwashed but I have a mind of my own.

    'Other people don't understand what Scientology is about. I am really

    Mr Cooper, of Saltburn-on-Sea, Cleveland, said: 'All I was interested in was
the welfare of Kathleen Wilson.

    'I hope that one day she will get out of the sect.

    'I am so relieved that it is all over. The jury were absolutely fantastic
and in my eyes British justice has won.'
    Mrs Wilson, 63, who was reunited with her daughter during the trial after
two years' separation, said that when she visited the church's HQ 'they all had 
the same smile on their faces'.

    She added: 'The cult has changed and altered her mind. It is heartbreaking
to think that I may never see her again.

    'I cry myself to sleep at night.'

    But  Greg Ryerson,  director of special affairs for the Church of
Scientology, said: 'The verdict is an insult. It is outrageous.

    'There is no evidence as to brainwashing.

    'The defence has taken bigotry, thrown it against the wall and then seen
what sticks.'

    Margaret Reese, a press officer for the Church, claimed: 'Once again the
British justice system has penalised the victim and let the assailant go free.' 
During the trial, the jury heard how Scientologists work at the castle
headquarters for L33-a-week and sign a billion-year contract to the Church.

    Recruits undergo counselling, called 'auditing', until they rise to level
eight. They then become an 'Operating Thetan' and reveal their innermost secrets
- called 'withholds' - in auditing sessions while holding on to tin cans which
are connected to an E-meter, a primitive lie detector.

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