The trial against Thierry Tilly took place in 2012. This character, who may seem to be someone rather normal, was responsible for one of the biggest scams carried out in France, and one of the cruelest kidnappings.
Known to the French press as the Leonardo da Vinci of brainwashing, Tilly was responsible for manipulating and stealing from one of the oldest aristocratic families in France, the Védrines.
The story of how he came to know these nobles and to deceive them to the point of being able to do with them what he wanted is breathtaking. It is a case of mental manipulation so aberrant that it can only be fully understood by reading this article.
Thierry Tilly, the case of the guru of Monflanquin
The story of a decade of psychological manipulation begins in Paris, in 1999. One of the members of the old family of Védrines, Ghislaine, was the one who had the bad luck to meet the brainwashing guru, and who served as a Trojan horse for Thierry Tilly, making him meet his rich family.
Ghislaine was looking for someone to help her update her Parisian branch of her secretarial school of computer systems. A friend of hers, a lawyer, had recommended the services of Thierry Tilly, who had extensive knowledge of the subject. It is curious to know that Ghislaine de Védrines and Tilly met because of a simple debt. Ghislaine’s friend had recommended Tilly’s services because Tilly owed him money, and working for de Védrines would settle a debt.
When they met, Ghislaine was bewitched by Tilly’s clean appearance, and this led her to make what was probably the worst mistake of her entire life: trusting him. Ghislaine began to tell her some private details of her life, such as the fact that her husband was depressed or that her son gave no sign of wanting to prosper in life. She also told her how a tense situation was developing in the family of Védrines because of the inheritance of Ghislaine’s father, in 1995.
In 2000 Ghislaine invited Thierry Tilly to a festival in Monflanquin, where she was the main organizer. Ghislaine suggested that Thierry Tilly visit the castle owned by his family in that town and give him the opportunity to meet her. The family of Védrines was not very close, and surely this was what allowed Tilly to be, as time went by, gaining more influence over her. This meeting was the precise moment that enabled her to act and change the destiny of the de Védrines family forever.
The family of Védrines was at that time composed of the following members. Ghislaine and her husband, Jean Marchand, together with their children, François and Guillemette. Ghislaine’s brothers, Charles-Henri, a gynecologist and local politician, and Philippe, a retired Shell Oil executive. Their wives were Christine and Brigitte, and the children of Christine and Charles-Henri: Diana, Amaury and Guillaume. The matriarch of the family was Guillemette d’Adhemar.
Psychological manipulation begins
Taking advantage of the family reunion situation, Thierry Tilly revealed to the family what his true mission was. He had not met Ghislaine in Paris to help her with her computer systems, but to warn her and her family of the danger they were in. He told them that he was a special agent in the service of France and that he even had connections with NATO.
After a while, and gaining greater confidence in the family of Védrines, he revealed the threat to them in full. He informed the family that they were descendants of an ancient branch belonging to the Order of the Temple , called ‘L’Équilibre du Monde’ (The Balance of the World). This organization was in charge of making sure that the world did not come to an end when the most evil forces of hell appeared.
Strange as it may seem, eleven family members, from grandchildren to grandmother, believed Tilly’s stories, and began to obey her designs and recommendations. Ghislaine’s husband, Jean Marchand, did not believe this fantasy, he never trusted Tilly, and even thought that he and his wife were having an affair. He tried to convince Ghislaine that they were being cheated on, but she did not listen to him and, obeying Tilly . Finally, he divorced Marchand, forbidding him to return.
In fact, from then on, Jean Marchand was considered persona non grata in the family of Védrines, carrying out a dishonorable ritual in front of Marchand, which consisted in throwing a glove and a bouquet of dried flowers. In this way, Marchand was recognized by the family as a member of evil, of the forces that wanted to kill the de Védrines and steal their fortune. Marchand returned to Paris, but when he arrived he saw that his bank accounts had been emptied by Ghislaine, at the request of Thierry Tilly.
At this point, the damage was already done. The family was under the spell of the guru. He ordered them to empty all their bank accounts and give the money to a mysterious organization called Blue Light Foundation. If they did this, Tilly told them that they would be safe under the protection of this foundation. The money would go to the Jacques Gonzalez, patron of the organization, who would use the money to build hospitals in China.
The dismantling of a fortune
For nearly ten years, all the wealth of the de Védrines was dismantled to go to this mysterious organization which, of course, was a scam. The money served Tilly and Jacques Gonzalez to afford all sorts of luxuries, several residences, wines, expensive cars and watches and a comfortable lifestyle. The swindled fortune was around 5 million euros , with most of the money going to the Cayman Islands.
But the economic scam is not the great evil carried out by Thierry Tilly. This picturesque character, who if observed from the photos looks like a normal, ordinary, annoying man, managed to carry out the kidnapping of the whole family, doing it of his own free will.
In 2003 he managed to get the family to leave their castle in Monflanquin and go to a residence in a nearby town called Talade. They lived there from that same year until 2008. Thierry Tilly forbade them to use calendars and watches. In this way, he guaranteed that the eleven members of the de Védrines who were kidnapped would be completely disoriented . he wanted them isolated from the world.
At this point in the story, the fact that the family listened to Tilly was explained by the fact that, seen as a true guru partly because of the sacrifices he had been telling them to make, if he told them to do something, they saw it as a truth that should undoubtedly be carried out.
The case is beginning to spread through the media
It was from 2008 onwards that, following the strange events that were occurring in de Védrines, and especially the complaints made by Jean Marchand, the press began to spread what was then a rumour . Already known as ‘les reclusos de Monflanquin’ (the inmates of Monflanquin), the solitary and isolated life of the de Védrines was becoming known.
Tilly took advantage of this and used it to strengthen the story of the dark forces, which was manifesting itself in ‘lies’ that they had been kidnapped. Having already a certain prominence in the local press, Thierry Tilly decided to have the whole family moved to Oxford, United Kingdom . In this way, he managed to avoid risks, keeping them away from any family ties with people from outside, and to be able to keep the situation under control with the press.
Tilly’s word on the de Védrines was already absolute, and she took advantage of this to turn them against each other, so that she could have even more control over the family and, moreover, avoid any escape. She even led the de Védrines brothers to believe that one of them, Amaury, had paedophile tendencies. Others that among their own they had infiltrated Freemasons. And he even made them afraid of anyone from the outside, no matter how harmless it might seem .
The torture stage
It is at this point that the worst of the case occurs, which served in the trial to add torture and acts of barbarism to the accusation against Thierry Tilly. Once the family was reunited in Oxford, he ordered one of the members, Christine, to go to Brussels, where she would have to go and collect a treasure deposited in a Belgian bank account. Christine, called by Tilly as the chosen one, had the mission to bring it and, with it, they could reach the place where the secret was to save the world.
Tilly made him believe that she had been chosen by a mysterious network of great international personalities and the head of which was Jacques Gonzalez, who was said to be directly related to the then King of Spain, Juan Carlos I. While the mission was being carried out, the rest of the family would survive by doing jobs far removed from their comfortable noble life: gardeners, waiters, shop assistants, cleaners…
Despite the mission given to Christine, she was not informed where she was to go to look for the treasure, nor did she know the number of the bank account. That is why when Christine returned from Belgium, she did so empty-handed. Tilly took advantage of this and, in order to gain even more control over the family, flew into a rage, accusing Christine of the family’s misery, and decided that she would be punished in a particularly cruel way.
Christine’s husband, Charles-Herni, and Ghislaine were responsible for torturing her on the orders of the guru. The torture consisted in preventing Christine from falling asleep by pinching her earlobes , while they sat in front of her on a stool. He led them to believe that Christine did not want to cooperate or was too weak to carry out the mission and that she should suffer for this.
Moreover, to reduce her to a mere animal, Tilly only allowed her to do some things at the expense of others. If Christine drank water, then she lost her right to go to the bathroom. When she had the urge to urinate, she had to do so in seclusion, in front of her husband and sister-in-law. Thierry Tilly visited her, furious, threatening her. He told her that she would never see her children again and that she would be handed over to Senegalese soldiers . She even physically attacked him.
Fortunately, the beginning of the end of this hell was in 2008. Philippe, Christine’s brother-in-law, was the first to leave Oxford . He returned to his country in July of that year and once he arrived, he contacted Jean Marchand, Ghislaine’s ex-husband, and Daniel Picotin, a lawyer specialising in sects. By March of the following year, Christine also managed to free herself from her chains, although leaving her husband and children behind.
Although years before Jean Marchand had reported the case to the French authorities, the French police had not been able to do anything without the particular testimony of those who had been brainwashed . Fortunately, with Philippe gone, they had enough evidence to begin the search and arrest of Thierry Tilly. The British police also decided to cooperate, by tapping the telephone of the Oxford residence.
In this way, Tilly unknowingly informed the police that she would soon be making a trip to Switzerland. An international arrest warrant was signed for the guru, who was finally arrested in Zurich on 21 October 2009. However, despite Leonardo da Vinci’s arrest for manipulation, Védrines’ family was still under his influence.
It is from then on that begins a therapeutic process of recovery of the mind of the de Védrines . Daniel Picotin initiated two missions of what is called exit counselling, a technique invented by Steven Hassan in 1978 that serves to disconnect the washed out mind of people who have been trapped in sects. By evoking memories prior to his enslavement, Picotin was able to slowly bring family members back down to earth.
Psychological explanation of the case
According to one of the most important psychiatrists in France, Dr. Daniel Zagury, Thierry Tilly followed to the letter everything that the great manipulators carry out, which can be found at the head of sects and groups of this kind. According to Zagury, Tilly fulfilled the following phases when he was with the family of Védrines, bringing them to the threshold of madness.
First, took care of identifying and taking advantage of the weaknesses of each member . Then, taking advantage of this advantage, he sowed fear with conspiracy theories, assuring the family that the forces of evil were chasing them. To strengthen his image as an omniscient guru, he made sure he had answers for everything. Finally, in order to enslave the family members, he took it upon himself to break all ties with the outside world and also with other family members, making them doubt their own personal lives.
The event of the kidnapping, which brought the family to Oxford, was what ensured that he had total control, both physically and mentally, of each of the de Védrines’ members. Furthermore, prohibiting them from using clocks and calendars, preventing them from knowing what time and day it was, managed to disorientate them and change their notion of the passage of time.
During the trial, Thierry Tilly was psychologically evaluated. Far from finding the mind of a person with a psychotic disorder, it was found that Tilly was very talented and extremely intelligent . She had a very good memory.
Trial and punishment
The trial against Thierry Tilly took place in Bordeaux on 4 October 2012. In it, Tilly appeared as if he were a priest, with the peculiar accessory of rimless glasses. The event lasted about 7 hours, during which the accused did not seem to be as worried as one would expect from a person who was accused of brainwashing, kidnapping, torture and acts of barbarism.
At that time, the French and international press already called him the guru of Monflanquin, and the fact that he had swindled three generations of the de Védrines was widely known in France. The 5 million euros swindled from the aristocrats were also well known. During the trial there were 10 of the 11 members who had suffered all of Tilly’s manipulation. The matriarch, Guillemette d’Adhemar, had died in 2010.
On November 13, 2012, Thierry Tilly and his accomplice Jacques Gonzalez were found guilty of brainwashing , in addition to various tortures and kidnapping. Tilly was sentenced to 8 years, while Gonzalez was sentenced to 4. In addition, both were forced to repay the entire swindled fortune. Unfortunately, of all the wealth of the de Védrines, only 220,000 euros could be recovered, with much more suspected to be in the Cayman Islands.
Thierry Tilly’s lawyer, Alexandre Novion, criticized the sentence, saying it was too harsh and a sign of liberticidal jurisprudence. He criticised the fact that psychologists and psychiatrists had been involved in the case and said he was prepared to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights. Also, the lawyer said that it was really Jacques Gonzalez the manipulator, being Tilly as much a victim as those of Védrines.
After being imprisoned, Thierry Tilly never has the same cell mates for long, to prevent him from manipulating them, and he has hardly received any visitors. He has refused to see his father, mainly because it was he who helped during the trial to disprove several of the stories the guru had told de Védrines and investigators. Tilly claimed that her father was a commando diver, and that her mother was a champion skater. The truth is that Mr. Tilly was a retired army driver, and his wife was a licensed midwife.
- Hassan, S. A.; Shah, M. J. (2019). The anatomy of undue influence used by terrorist cults and traffickers to induce helplessness and trauma, so creating false identities. Ethics, Medicine and Public Health. 8: 97 – 107.