TWELVE members of a religious group have been charged after the death of a diabetic girl who was allegedly denied insulin in Australia.
Elizabeth Rose Struhs’ body was found in the family’s home in Queensland – which doubled as a cult church – and police say her parents had prayed for her to be cured instead of giving her medicine.
Police say the eight-year old, who had Type 1 diabetes, was denied medical care by the cult, whose members have now been charged with murder.
Elizabeth was found on January 11 at the property in Toowoomba but cops believe she actually died four days earlier.
Dramatic footage showed how police found the cult members in a living room of a home in Harristown, which has been described as a place of worship.
The seven women and five men are aged 19 to 64.
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“All of the 12 arrested were aware of the child’s condition, were there at the address and did not take any steps to provide medical assistance to the child,” police allege.
The accused are appearing in front of Toowoomba Magistrates Court on Wednesday June 6.
“It will be alleged the child suffered an underlying medical condition, who was denied treatment for that condition over a period of six days,” Southern Region Detective Acting Superintendent Garry Watts said.
Their arrest follows a six-month investigation “in which all officers involved were dedicated to ensuring those alleged to be responsible for her death, are brought before the court”, Watts said.
The group of Christians were aware of Elizabeth’s illness but believed the little girl would be “healed by God”, 9News reports.
Her anti-vaxxer parents, Jason Struhs, 50, and 46-year-old Kerrie, were arrested earlier this year as part of the investigations into Elizabeth’s death.
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They were both charged with one count of murder, torture and failure to provide necessities of life.
Police say the couple believed that their daughter was suffering from “worms” and God had “100 per cent promised healing”.
Police also alleges the parents held a “prayer ritual” before inviting up to 20 members of the fringe religious group to play guitar, sing and pray over her sick body for over 24 hours, instead of calling for help.
Only then did they reportedly call emergency services – at 5:30pm the next day.
Police said the cult was made up of three families, including other children. Cult members describe themselves as “The Saints”.
The little girl’s elder sister Jayde Struhs, who escaped the cult age 16 “due to the fear driven and controlling beliefs the cult my parents are apart of” has since vowed to take care of the remaining five siblings under the age of 18.
In a GoFundMe page, Struhs, who came out as a lesbian in her teens, explained: “They take the religion to its extremes, separating us from the real world and extended family who did not believe.”
Shunned by her parents, Struhs graduated high school, is involved in community sport and lives in Brisbane with her partner Emma.
“On Tuesday the 11th of January, our extended family were confronted by the news that has left us completely shattered and heartbroken.
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“We sadly discovered the death of Elizabeth in the cruellest of ways. With so many unanswered questions, we have faced the brutal reality that the people who should have protected her did not, and we may never know the full extent of what took place,” she wrote.
Discussing how Elizabeth was “taken from us too soon”, Struhs celebrated the little girl’s inspiring “brave spirit in the face of medical adversity”.