Former Twelve Tribes cult leader Chen Czarnecki has been revealed as the victim of a fatal house fire last month.
The victim of a fatal house fire near the NSW city of Lismore last month has been revealed as former Twelve Tribes cult leader Chen Czarnecki, formerly known as Scott.
A 17-year-old boy has been charged with murder over the fire as well as improperly interfering with a corpse and malicious damage by fire.
Mr Czarnecki is alleged to have suffered injuries before the fire broke out that may have killed him or heavily contributed to his death.
Emergency services were called to Mr Czarnecki’s rural property in Smiths Creek, 40km northwest of Lismore, about 5.45pm on August 16.
The property was well alight when they arrived, and crews from the Rural Fire Service took hours to extinguish the blaze.
Chen – also known as Scott – Czarnecki, 64, died in an allegedly deliberately lit fire at his rural property at Smiths Creek, 40 kilometres northwest of Lismore, on August 15. Picture: Facebook
Mr Czarnecki’s body was found inside shortly after.
Detectives from Richmond Police District and State Crime Command established Strike Force Kumulla to investigate the circumstances surrounding the blaze.
The boy was arrested at a home in Kyogle on August 28. He has been refused bail and will next face a children’s court in October.
Mr Czarnecki spent about 30 years as the leader of the Australian arm of the Twelve Tribes cult and left about a decade ago.
Twelve Tribes was started in 1975 in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and aims to prepare for the return of Jesus by re-establishing the 12 tribes of Israel.
Their website suggests they have “two or three thousand” members around the world.
Still of YouTube video from Peppercorn Creek Farm, Picton, and Common Ground Bakery and cafe at Picton operated by the Twelve Tribes communities. Picture: YouTube
Members of the cult must adhere to strict dress standards, shun many kinds of modern medicine and do not watch TV.
Children are beaten if they do not obey, with the cult’s website noting it instructs parents to spank their children “with a small reed-like rod” if they are “disobedient or intentionally hurtful to others”.
“The rod removes guilt from their soul and trains them to do good,” the website says.
The cult makes money by running “Yellow Deli” cafes in their community. One such cafe exists in Katoomba in the NSW Blue Mountains.
In an interview with about nine months ago, Mr Czarnecki said he was concerned about the lack of medical care for members and said stillborn babies were disposed of without notifying authorities they had ever existed.
"There were babies that were stillborn. There were babies that struggled to live, definitely the whole gamut," Mr Czarnecki said.
Police conducted raids at Peppercorn Creek Farm in Picton in February and at a 78.5-hectare property near Bigga, southwest of Sydney, in March.
Three grave sites were uncovered at Bigga, which is often used as a place of exile for members who are questioning their faith.
There is no running water or electricity at the property.
Police conducted raids at two properties southwest of Sydney earlier his year and found three gravesites. Picture: ABC