By MATT ROPER
PUBLISHED: 07:47 EST, 12 October 2012 | UPDATED: 09:07 EST, 12 October 2012
- Leader has convinced followers apocalypse will happen at 4pm (8pm BST)
- Luis Pereira dos Santos claims angel told him when the world would end
- ‘There will be only darkness because the beast will come out of the abyss’
- Authorities believe the group are preparing to drink soup laced with poison
- Police removed 19 children after ‘credible’ information about suicide pact
Police in Brazil fear a mass suicide after more than 100 members of a doomsday cult barricaded themselves inside a house to await ‘the end of the world’, it emerged today.
The group’s leader, the ‘prophet’ Luis Pereira dos Santos, has convinced his followers the Apocalypse will happen today at 4pm local time (8pm BST/3pm EST).
Authorities believe they are preparing to kill themselves by drinking soup laced with poison.
Apocalypse now: Cult leader Luis Pereira dos Santos at the house where he has convinced more than 100 followers to hole up to await the ‘end of the world’
‘Prophet’: Santos, known to his flock as Daddy Luis, claims an angel visited four years ago telling him at 4pm local time (8pm BST)
Santos, known to his flock as Daddy Luis, claims an angel visited four years ago telling him the exact time the world was going to end.
Last month, the 43-year-old spiritual leader instructed his 113 followers to leave their jobs, give away all their possessions and take their children out of school, police confirmed.
The group have since been holed up inside a ten-bedroom house, which they have called The Ark, on the outskirts of Teresina, the capital of Brazil’s northeastern state of Piaui.
The end of the world happens to fall on a public holiday in Brazil, the feast day of the country’s patron saint Our Lady of Aparecida, as well as national Children’s Day.
Yesterday evening, 50 military policemen forced they way into the house and removed 19 babies and children after receiving ‘credible’ information the group planned to kill themselves by drinking poison.
During the operation, a ‘significant quantity’ of rat poison was found at the residence, a police spokesman said.
‘The beast will come’: The 43-year-old spiritual leader instructed his 113 followers to leave their jobs, give away all their possessions and take their children out of school
‘Worried’: Military police arrive at the house the cult calls ‘the Ark’ to take away 19 babies and children after receiving ‘credible’ information the group planned to kill themselves
Although the group didn’t put up any resistance, one of the cult members, Maria Francisca Alves, 38, whose 12-year-old daughter was taken away by police, protested the action.
Asked why she had taken her daughter out of school, she said: ‘We’re preparing for the end of the world, so what’s the point of studying? Learning the word of God is more important.’
Children’s judge Maria Luiza de Moura, who issued the protection order, said the children will be placed in care homes.
She said: ‘We believe that a mass suicide or murder may happen using a soup ingested by cult members.
‘The adults are free to act of their free and spontaneous will, but we have to make sure that nothing happens to the children.’
The police chief leading the investigation, Joatan Goncalves, said: ‘Our worry is if there are offered a toxic product claiming to offer salvation on Friday.’
Death threat: Police hold back onlookers. Officers said they found a ‘significant quantity’ of rat poison at the house
In an interview with Brazil’s Terra website, divorced father-of-five Santos, a former caretaker, said he didn’t fear the police and denied that the group were planning to drink poison.
He said: ‘I preach the gospel and it says thou shalt no kill. We will be saved and raptured in another way.’
The former Catholic said most of his followers are former street beggars, prostitutes, drug dealers and criminals which God had told him to ‘save’.
He said: ‘I received a message telling me to be a shepherd to lost sheep. I am Christ’s advocate. From Friday night there will be only darkness, because the beast will come out of the abyss and the world will end.
‘People call me crazy, even my wife abandoned me, but I am sure that there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth and the good people will be taken away.’
The largest recorded cult suicide was in 1978 when People’s Temple leader Jim Jones inspired 918 of his followers to kill themselves in Guyana by drinking cyanide.
From 1994 to 1997, members of the Order of the Solar Temple sect began a series of mass suicides, which lead to around 74 deaths.
In 1997, 39 followers of the Heaven’s Gate cult died in a mass suicide in Rancho Santa Fe, California, believing their souls would journey aboard a spaceship they believed to be following the Hale-Bopp comet.