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In Hello from Oxford and welcome to Inside Out. Why are we here? All
will be revealed. We were completely manipulated. Tonight: We
are telling the extraordinary story of a conman who brainwashed a
French aristocratic family and held them captive in Oxford. He told us
that we are to be killed. We go undercover in Dorset to find out
who has the right staff are mud. is over-exploitation. It is too
many people taking too many worms. Battle of Britain hero with his
family. This is inside, for the -- inside out, for the South of
First to Nidal we are hearing Oxford with a story which sounds
like it could be from an episode of Inspector Morse. An aristocratic
French family conned out of their fortune and brought to this city to
work virtually as slaves. But this extraordinary story is not a work
of fiction. Thierry Tilly was a man so
controlling he was dubbed the Leonardo da Vinci of mental
manipulation. Over 10 years, he brainwashed three generations of
our noble French family, conning them out of millions of pounds.
TRANSLATION: I compare it to a spider. He will sting you to
anaesthetise you and once he has done you, he will wrap you up. Then
he sucks the blood out of you. He took all the family's it's money
and have persuaded them to be moved to Oxford to work for him,
punishing them if they resisted. TRANSLATION: It was completely
unreal. We were hallucinating. We were locked in the house and only
the children had the right to go out to work. We were country be
manipulated to. Our mind was gone. He told us that we could be killed.
The story be gins in Monflanquin, a thirteenth-century billet in the
south-west of France. One of the most impressive properties around
his Chateau Martel. For hundreds of years, it was owned by the same
family, the De Vedrines. The De Vedrines enjoyed the aristocratic
lifestyle. They would all get together here at weekends for big
parties. But about 10 years ago, the family changed and became more
reclusive. They spent days, sometimes weeks, inside, too scared
to go up. That is because Thierry Tilly was calling the shots. He
infiltrated the family, convincing them he was a well-connected,
powerful man who wanted to help them. The lawyer who eventually
brought Tilly to court says he used complicated brainwashing techniques
to gain control of the family. TRANSLATION: And at the castle,
there were no timepieces. They were obliged to spend three days in the
dark to lose their sense of time. He would isolate members of the
family. They were not allowed to talk to each other. And with his
hypnotic powers, he managed to partition people off and set them
against each other. So, how did Tilly gain so much influence? I
have come to this apartment block in Bordeaux to meet the husband-
and-wife at the heart of this story. The flat belongs to a friend
because Christine and Charles-Henri De Vedrine say they are too
embarrassed to show us the social housing where they now live. They
told me at first, Tilly seem to have the family's interests at
heart. TRANSLATION: Tilly said he would look after our home,
investments and trusts. We just wanted to protect them. We used
professionals but he made us believe him better than them. He
knew a lot of things about us and my family was convinced by him.
People do have family members in one by one, including Christine and
Charles-Henri's son. -- he pulled the family members in. He was very
nice. I thought everything he was telling us had an importance. It
became everything, actually. At one time, I told him that I hope to he
could be in my mind to help me when I had to make decisions. He told me,
please do not say that out loud because people will not understand.
I understand what you are saying but you cannot say that about low.
He knew how to adapt himself to each individual. He spoke
differently to the 60-year-old girl and the 20-year-old boy band to the
grandmother. He spoke to people in their own language and used it to
trap them. His controlled was now so powerful he convinced the family
they were under threat. He said people wanted them dead and they
must escape and sell their chateaux. TRANSLATION: He said, you must
absolutely sell it. You cannot keep it because it is too dangerous for
the family. He sold everything, knowing it was our roots. He
succeeded. The family owned properties all around South West
France. Tilly got control of all of it. This is one of seven properties
that he sold. In total, he conned the family out of 5 million euros.
It is money they have not seen since. As the French authorities
grew suspicious of Tilly, he took radical action by moving to Oxford.
He persuaded the family to follow him. At the time, they lived in
rented houses, including this one, working as gardeners, cooks and
cleaners. Their wages were handed over. Thornton came up with a
bizarre arrangement where he controlled the family's money, who
they could see and even what food they could eat. If he was not with
them, he would be badgering them on the phone asking who they were with.
They were accountable 24 hours a day. All my money, I gave it to him.
I did not have any fantasies. I could not even by a chocolate bar
because the money would be pretty much a theft from the family and
the whole thing. So I did not go to the cinema. We could not have
friends. I did not have a girlfriend. So we were really into
our own world. Tilly's Hall was so strong the family, when not a work,
were virtually UN -- under house arrest. I stayed so the months in
my bedroom. -- seven months. I did not take my meals with the rest of
the family. I stayed there for several months. TRANSLATION: For a
fortnight, we did not sleep. We only had biscuits and bread to eat
and tea to drink. It was really hard. When we came out of there,
Christine was in an appalling state. Swelling on her lower legs. She had
to learn to walk again. She was so badly affected. In Oxford, I lost
my spirit. It was the first time I thought of suicide. I must admit, I
thought of that in Oxford. Christine struggled with her own
state of mind, she tried to stay strong for the rest of the family.
She was the rebellious one who crest and -- questioned Tilly and
his motives. She was working at this deli in Oxford. When her boss
met Tilly, he saw him for what he was. Immediately, I sensed this
chap was not right. Drip-dry shirt, cheap Thai, Noci, cheap shoes. I
thought he was not a big financier but this did that. Already
suspicious of Tilly, Christine would become the first family
member to break free. She asked what I thought of Mr Tilly and I
said, "I think he is either end not all a crook." she looked at me and
it was like there was a click in her brain. She started telling me
her story. I could not believe what I was listening to. I told her she
had to get out of here because the people were dangerous. I feared for
her life. Asked if there was anybody we could phone. She said
there was her cousin. They found that cozen and arranged for her to
come and take Christine back to France but all of this was kept
secret from her husband, who was still under up Tilly's spell.
asked if she had her passport. said yes. I said that when she went
home that night with her husband, she must make absolutely no
movements that would make them suspect that something had happened.
The next morning, my driver was waiting. I had primed him. She went
to work, her husband walked off. She ran into the car, went to
London and then the cousin and best friend were waiting for her and she
was smuggled back to Paris. She rang me in the afternoon and said
she was safe. Thought Thierry Tilly, it was the beginning of the end.
Christine went to the authorities and it in 2009, he was arrested and
went on trial in Bordeaux. Last year, France finally learned how,
for 10 years, Tilly had this noble family at his mercy. Thornton was
convicted of a number of offences, including abusing people weakened
by psychological subjection. In other words, brainwashing.
Prosecutors called him a liar and a fantasist. The judge spoke of
mental trickery before jailing him for eight years. With Tilly finally
shut away, the De Vedrines are now hoping to rebuild their lives.
TRANSLATION: I am angry with Tilly because of what he did to my wife
and children. He stole 10 years of our lives but he did more than that.
He destroyed everything on the way. Now, a actually, we are completely
ruined. We have no house, no money, no furniture, no nothing. I feel
very guilty for my children because I did not protect them. For 10
years, I lived in a perceived reality and actually, it was alive.
It took something from me that I can't have a grasp of. It is
difficult to live with that. TRANSLATION: And I am speaking out
now because the main thing to understand is that even if we had
not been very intelligent, it can happen to others.
Jeremy stern reporting. Do not forget, if you have a story for us,
drop me an e-mail. Next, from Oxford down to the coast and pool,
where digging for bait has opened a It may look like a nerd, but sites
like this are important feeding grounds for birds. Many sites are
protected like Holes Bay in Dorset. Conservationists say this world is
being trampled underfoot. This is what everyone is after. Big,
fat, juicy ones for fishing. The problem is, it is the scale of the
digging. Causing conflict not only with the local people, but also
with the wildlife. So concerned were natural England
about the effect on birdlife here that they took steps to ban
commercial diggers in order to protect the feeding sites of my
great tree and wading birds. They put up signs to make the ban clear
to anyone in the area. Poole Harbour commissioners say they have
never given anyone permission to dig commercially here. We
discovered that gangs were travelling from Portsmouth to dig
up rag worms that by weight are worth more than the finest rump
steak. It seems no one is doing anything about it.
This murder is an internationally valuable resource. Two birds, this
is gold and they come from all over the northern hemisphere to exploit
it. This is their patch, they know this place as much as we know our
local park or the neighbourhood where we grew up. The reason they
come back is because they know there is food. If they arrive and
there are blokes digging for food, they can't use the resource. The
argument might be, they just move down the shore and go elsewhere,
but it's not that simple. They need to come to patches they know where
3D is and if they can't, we are in trouble.
These guys aren't even following Poole Harbour's code of conduct
drawn up for people looking for a couple of worms for personal use.
The commercial diggers are leaving their trenches. Where they don't
fill them in, it means invertebrates will struggle to re-
establish themselves. Dorset Wildlife Trust told us it
can take two to 10 weeks to recover. That is an age to wait if you are a
hungry bird. Are these figures definitely part of a commercial
operation? Once they come off the mud, we filmed this group
Another day, another Dick. This time about a dozen men of spread
out. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. At least some of them have come
from Portsmouth as their van parked at the side shows. A long way to
come for bait for personal use. The next day, the diggers are back. I
take a closer look at the men sorting debate. I saw the men
working together and sorting a It wasn't hard to trace the bait
back to the shop in Portsmouth which doesn't have permission to
dig commercially at Holes Bay. Natural England has tried to
control the levels of bait digging by drawing up an agreement between
the shop and other commercial outfits, but they simply refuse to
sign it, saying it was too restrictive.
The owner of the shop told us that since the signs banning commercial
digging arrived, he stopped going to Holes Bay. Even when he did, he
claimed it was only him and one or two others. And he always followed
the code of conduct. All the time I have back filled my
holes and I take only what I need. One way started in Holes Bay, there
was not as much ragworm as there is now. There is more population than
before. If what about disturbing wildlife
and birds? The birds are still next to me when
I'm digging. I don't scare them away. The swans come and see me. We
are not actually disturbing them. We turn the ground over so it gives
them some food as well. Once we leave where we are, or birds of
their fees -- feeding. Some diggers say they are confused
about what they can and can't do. It is an activity that has gone on
for decades and many believe that any ban is illegal.
I sell baked to a shop. When he orders it I come down and get it.
There is a sign saying no commercial bait digging and yet you
are doing that. There were a few up here last year and we were told
that they were illegally put up. The signs are illegal? Yes. They
can't stop you bait digging here. I thought you were allowed to dig
anywhere. If natural England appear to be
equally confused about the issue having put up the signs, they are
doing nothing to enforce them. A what is the point in putting
signs appeared no one does anything. There is a warning and it is known
to people and make them aware. It is a first step before we have
started trying to get voluntary agreements.
If there are no problems, take the signs down, if there are problems,
surely and force them. It is complex and Dan-Air people
emotively look at it and think it is messy. When you actually look at
research, in terms of when it is done at a low level, the impact has
been found relatively minimum. Meanwhile, the southern inshore
fisheries conservation authority has taken responsibility for
finding a lasting solution. They are conducting a five-year study in
the hope of proving whether bait digging means but are losing out as
conservationists believe. It is over exploitation. Too many
people taking too many ones. There is nothing wrong with harvesting as
long as it is sustainable. Kenya here that? That poor bird has come
from other will wind up -- wind- blown environments and all it wants
is a were am. We just have to be a lot more consider it.
We don't had any birds down there. There are no dead birds, no birds
have moved out of the area, none at all. Swans nest in the middle and
we give them a wide berth. If you live with nature, they don't think
here is the bait digger and run. We live with them.
I would love to hear your thoughts on that story. You can tweet me.
Finally tonight, the Battle of Britain, Churchill's view, those
brave heroes who fought to defend our country. One former newsreader
Jan Leeming agreed to sponsor and name on the Battle of Britain
Memorial, she had no idea of the I wasn't even born when the Battle
of Britain raged over Kent. I can only imagine the sounds of battle
and the vapour trails of aircraft as criss-crossing the sky as an
ever-shrinking band of young pilots defended this country from invasion
against overwhelming odds. Never in the field of human
conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.
The closest I have ever come to committing an act of bravery was
backing 2006 in Australia with a bunch of celebrities. It was
terrifying, but I can't claim to know anything of the terror of
those pilot must have experienced. On my return from the jungle, I
sponsored her name on the Battle of Britain Memorial at Capel-Le-Ferne.
I was intrigued by the foreign names listed here, especially the
French pilots. There are 13 French names on this
wall of remembrance. Because of my French ancestry I asked to sponsor
a French pilot and the name I was given was that of Rene Mouchotte.
They soon as I started to research the name Rene Mouchotte, I
discovered he kept diaries which were published after the war and I
found him in an old newsreel from 1943.
This was Rene enjoying his own brief taste of celebrity as one of
two pilots who share the credit for shooting down Biggin Hill 1000
enemy plane. Well, boys, what about Per 1000 shot down plane was such a
big deal at Biggin Hill that many MN had refused to take leave so
they could be around to see it. As Andy Simpson told me, this bumped
up the sweepstakes prize money to a side -- tidy sum.
The winner of the sweepstake was going to get �150, which was
substantial at the time. And the pilot who got the thousandth was
going to get 300. What happened was the two pilots shared it.
Rene shed his prize money with his crew. They all got a chance to
celebrate attitude party at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London.
A rare opportunity to enjoy some rest and relaxation away from the
war. When the end of the evening came,
taxi drivers appeared to offer their services for those coming
home, any distance and for nothing. In his three years of action with
the RAF, Rene completed more than 188 flights. He flew from all over
the country, but is best remembered at Biggin Hill where he became the
first Frenchman to leave -- lead an RAF squadron. He even had a local
street named after him where servicemen from all the forces
still live today. Including Lieutenant Colonel Sebastian
Pollington. We all know of the significance of
Mouchotte and other famous m men who have roads here. Mouchotte, in
particular, because it is the biggest road. The significance of
him is not lost on residence. There is a book that goes around and
everybody reads it, signs it and passes it on.
The book is a collection of Rene's war diaries. Much more than just a
description of missions. These are personal notes about fear, fatigue,
blackouts in the air, anger at bureaucracy and what it feels like
to see your friends die in battle. We had been flying for over an hour
when I suddenly saw her fatal white cloud which indicates engine
failure. As remade for the coast, I advised him to bail out. My poor
Charles, he fell in head first. When they survived the Battle of
Britain and other adventures, but almost inevitably, his time came on
27th August, 1943. Paris was Rene's home town. I
wanted to know more about his life before the war and to see if any of
his relatives had survived. Renee came from a well-to-do family, he
was born here almost a century ago in the summer of 1914. The
Mouchotte's family ran a successful business and Rene grew up in a
grand villa. Today it is an apartment building with no trace of
his family any more. My only option was to leave and let at the Pere
Lachaise cemetery in the hope that someone with a connection to Renee
would find it. Incredibly, four months later, the
note was found by Rene's sister, Jacqueline who instructed her son-
in-law, Hubert De Lisle, to contact My mother in law found the letter
in late October when she naturally, every year, went to put flowers on
the tomb. She called me and she said, there is a letter in French
and English. Somebody wants to make a recording, photographs on the
life of Rene Mouchotte. She was reticent at first until I
discovered it was you, Jan Leeming. I'm your e-mail I managed to
contact you and that was it. Jacqueline agreed to see me and we
met on her hundred and first birthday. We looked at photos of
her with Rene when they were children and news footage from the
war, 40 she had never seen before. She had fond memories of him as a
boy he was always kind and smiling. With tears in her eyes, she said it
was wonderful to see her brother as she remembered him 72 years ago
when he set off for war. Although Rene is remembered and honoured in
France, I was astonished to discover that the Mouchotte family
had never received his medals. That was something I could put right.
I contacted the allied air forces Museum and with their help was able
to go back to Paris last summer and finally present Jacqueline and her
family with her brothers Battle of She was not in good health at the
time, but delighted to receive them. She died just three weeks later.
Jacqueline was buried here at Pere Lachaise in the family tomb where
Rene's body was laid to rest six years after his death. My search
for Renee and his family has taken up much of my life since 2007, but
with the help of a great many people, I have finally been able to
complete his story. So, my journey ended where it began
and after five years of searching, Rene Mouchotte is no longer just a
name engraved on a wall. What an incredible character. Jan
Leeming reporting. That is it for now, more next time. Until then,
goodbye. Next time on Inside Out, the Dorset
man banged up in Hungary but without being charged. Just how
justice the justice system abroad? I believed I was going to spend