It began on April 28 when locals of Ko Tao island’s paradisal Tanote Bay noticed monitor lizards going back and forth into the jungle in a peculiar manner. Upon following them, they discovered the body of a woman hanging from a tree.
30-year-old Belgian backpacker Elise Dallemange was found dead, half-eaten by lizards. Police believed she had hanged herself, making her the seventh tourist in three years to die on the tiny island known casually as “death island.”
Dallemange had been traveling around Asia for the past two years, living on a neighboring “full-moon party island” Koh Pha Ngan, an island known for yoga and tantric sex. For all intents and purposes, she was another tourist exploring an island known for its tourist offerings that had a dark turn.
According to her mother, Michele van Egten, the suicide theory, however, “simply makes no sense.”
“Elise was a person who loved life, she wanted to come home,” van Egten told the press. “She had bought a ticket for April 21 to go to the Poseidon Resort in Tanote Bay and to go to Bangkok on April 24.
“We fear somebody else was involved.”
You see, Dallemange was apparently an “active member” of SACRED, a yogi/tantra organization where women and men “strive for a life full of passion, purpose, magic, and miracles.” But most importantly, SCARED is a sect of the Sathya Sai Baba cult.
Sathya Narayana Raju, known by his followers as Sai Baba, founded Hindu-inspired religious movement in 1960 simply called Sathya Sai Baba.
But like so many other cults, instead focused entirely on the worship of its leader Sai Baba.
Sai Baba kept his followers enamored by his materializations of holy ash or other trinkets like jewelry. He performed miraculous healings and resurrections. He claimed clairvoyance and omnipotence. He told his followers that he was the reincarnation of Sai Baba of Shirdi. And they believed him.
According to the Sathya Sai Baba Organization, there are about 1,200 Sathya Sai Baba centers in 114 countries, but it’s difficult to determine the exact number of followers. There are anywhere between 6 and 100 million members. The Sai Baba movement continues to grow and gain new members like Elise Dallemange.
According to Ko Tao police, there have been no intentions to reopen the investigation into Dallemange’s death and they had no questions to answer. “This news is so old already, it has been misunderstood. There is no more to say.”
With no one in the local police making no discernible effort to investigate Dallemange’s death, and with her family located on the other side of the world, one has to wonder whether anyone will learn how the Sai Baba cult was involved in her death, if they were involved at all.
What could have driven a young woman with plans for the near future to be driven to hanging herself on a small isolated island? Investigative methods appear to have fallen into the hands of van Egten, who is awaiting an autopsy report.
“We’re more and more thinking that the police information is not the right explanation,” she shared with the press. “We were told by police in Koh Tao that they have no jurisdiction on the touring island Koh Phangan, so a lot of questions have not been investigated.”