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Elche woman in Peruvian sect 'ate once a week'
DISTRESSING information about a young Elche woman's ordeal in a sect based in the Peruvian Amazon has come to light now that she has been rescued along with her month-old daughter.
Initial reports claimed Patricia Aguilar was 16 when she disappeared on January 7, 2017 and is now 18, but later details reveal she left her home in the southern Alicante province city shortly after her 18th birthday, and is now 19-and-a-half.
She is thought to have been groomed by cult leader Félix Steven Manrique, 34, who calls himself 'Prince Gurdjieff', at around age 16 during a time when she was emotionally vulnerable due to grieving over her uncle's death at just 29.
Extremely thin and badly malnourished, as is her baby, Patricia was found in a lodge in a very hazardous enclave of the Amazon about an hour away from Manrique's house, where other young women – one of whom is pregnant – and several small children were kept captive.
Patricia's father Alberto Aguilar had travelled to Perú to help with the police operation.
She and the other women and children were only given food once a week, and her baby, wrapped in a small and dirty scrap of cloth, is covered in insect bites.
Before being moved to the rainforest, the women and their captor lived in a flat in the capital, Lima.
Signs of 'physical violence' were seen in the property, including doors smashed in, and neighbours said they often heard screams and saw 'submissive-looking' young girls 'walking a few steps behind' Manrique, 'covered in bruises'.
Their children behaved 'extremely aggressively' towards other kids in the neighbourhood and even attacked them 'like demons'.
The women were repeatedly raped and beaten by the leader of the cult, known as 'Gnosis', who convinced them they had been 'chosen by God' to 'repopulate the earth'.
They were drugged with the powerful mind-altering tropical substance, Ayahuasca.
Patricia is currently with her baby in a shelter run by Perú's Public Ministry, where she is undergoing psychiatric and phyiscal medical examinations and provided with counselling.
The other women, extremely thin and showing clear signs of having suffered violence, are also in safe refuges.
Alberto Aguilar has seen his daughter and granddaughter from a distance, but has not been able to speak to her.
According to Patricia's aunt, the young woman has a congenital heart problem and her pregnancy and labour would have been extremely high-risk, meaning she is fortunate to have survived, given that she gave birth alone, with no medical assistance, in the middle of the jungle and with only a woman from a local settlement to help deliver the child.
The baby's general condition is so poor that, as Patricia's aunt says, had the police not found the pair in time, the infant would not have survived.
Patricia's family's main priority now is getting her and their granddaughter back to Elche, but this is proving a complex operation.
Although Patricia is in the country illegally – European Union citizens can spend up to three months in Latin American nations without a visa, but Patricia has been there for 18 months – her family had hoped the Peruvian authorities would automatically deport her.
But as her baby was born there, the child has Peruvian nationality, which may make it difficult for the mother to leave.
The first photograph shows Patricia (centre, in the blue T-shirt) with her baby and two other female victims with her, along with the children they gave birth to after being raped by Manrique, who is now in police custody.
In the second photograph, Patricia is shown with her baby outside the hut in the Peruvian Amazon where she lived.
Parts of the Amazon are too dangerous for people to enter, let alone live in – these are so-called 'white water' zones where mosquitoes carrying dengue and malaria are rife.
The safer parts of the world's largest rainforest are in the 'black water' zones, where disease-carrying insects are much more sparse, although travellers are always recommended to take malaria pills, use DEET insect repellent, be vaccinated against hepatitis A and yellow fever, and to cover up as much of their flesh as possible.
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