Krishna killer beheaded his guru

20 July 1988

EVENING STANDARD A MEMBER of the Hare Krishna religious cult was sent to a secure mental hospital today after admitting killing and decapitating his American guru because he believed he was the Anti-Christ.

John Tiernan (Navanita Cora dasa) once believed James Immel, 39, (Jayatirtha) was the reincarnation of Christ, Judge Neil Denison was told at the Old Bailey. Disillusioned, he later came to see his "master" as another Hitler and the embodiment of "The Beast" as depicted in the Book of Revelation. The three names Immel used for religious purposes each had six letters-and in Tiernan's mind these represented the figures 666, symbol of "The Beast".

On November 13 last year Tiernan, 32, from the Irish Republic, went to the shop in Regent's Park Road where Immel worked and stabbed him to death. He then severed his victim's head in order to exorcise "the evil".

Tiernan, a former Student at University College Dublin, and one of the cult's best fund-raisers, told police he was "euphoric" after the killing, said prosecuting counsel Mr John Nutting.

'I had to rid the world of his evil'

JAMES IMMEL (Jayatirtha Swami) arrived for work at the brass fittings shop Liberty Architectural in Regents Park Road, Finchley, on November 13 last year It was his 39th birthday... and his last.

Known to his thousands of followers as Vijaya he was learning the retail side of the business from fellow Krishna Mr Canarnani with a view to setting up his own shops.  Minutes later a man burst into the shop and without uttering a word hacked Immel to death with a seven inch butchers knife.

His attacker, John Tiernan, (Navanita Cora dasa) who had followed Immel around the world for 12 years obeying his every command, sawed off his former master's head with a serrated blade.

How could the mild-mannered, youthful-looking Irishman have brutally murdered the man he once loved and worshipped as a god?

The victim, James Immel (Jayathirtha) was a man of high intelligence who discovered Dr Timothy Leary, the Harvard professor, who called on the youth of America to "tune in, turn on and drop out".

After becoming disillusioned with Leary's self-indulgent theories Immel joined the Hare Krishna movement in the late 60s. By the early 70s he had risen in the ranks to become a member of the governing body of Iskcon- The International Society for Krishna Consciousness.


In 1982 he was expelled from Iskcon, now splintered by a power struggle, after Krishna leaders became alarmed at his methods. Immel, who proclaimed he was the reincarnation of Jesus Christ, moved to Mendocino County, California, with 150 fanatical followers and they bought a farm called the Golden Mountain Sanctuary.

His best fundraiser was a gentle fairhaired man called John Tiernan, who joined the Krishna Temple at Letchmore Heath, Hertfordshire, in 1976. He would do absolutely anything Vijaya wanted. He collected huge sums of money-£18,000 in one month alone from selling cheap imported paintings.

"He had become a virtual slave to Immel," said a detective involved in the case.

Tiernan and another of Immel's devotees, 38-year old Geraldine Sanderson, were convinced Immel was Jesus returned. At the Golden Mountain farm she took LSD with him and despite their vows of chastity they became lovers. Immel told his disciples she was their Holy Mother and took her for his wife.

But in May 1987 he astonished her by phoning from Hawaii where he had flown secretly with another woman and announcing he had entered into a "mystical marriage".

"He told me it was to over come my envious nature. I was screaming and I felt as if my soul were ripped in half. I thought he was Jesus Christ and all of a sudden- polygamy."

Tiernan was also horrified at his master's actions. When Immel phoned him the next day with some more orders Tiernan said of his sexual activities: "I don't see this as being the activities of the spiritual master."

Tiernan explained: "He inflicted five years of the most horrific torture on me. I had been deceived since 1982 by the man I accepted as the Returned Christ.

"I believe if he was allowed to go on living, every one else's lives on this planet would have been lost. He was the Beast."

He decided he had a job to do-ridding the world of evil- by killing Immel.

"I was not satisfied until the head was completely off. I wanted to be sure he would not rise again.".........