My uncle was slaughtered in Waco siege after fleeing UK to join twisted cult – but the biggest mystery remains unsolved | The Sun

THEY told their family they were going to America for a holiday but Winston Blake and his fiancée Beverley Elliott clearly weren’t planning to come back.

The young couple, from Nottingham, secretly sold their possessions to friends and emptied their bank accounts before travelling to a desolate ranch halfway across the world – lured by the promise of a better way of life.

But in reality, they had been brainwashed into joining the religious cult Branch Davidians.

And their American dream came crashing down when they found themselves embroiled in a deadly stand-off after US enforcement agencies stormed the compound, run by cult leader David Koresh who claimed he was the Messiah.

Now a new two-part ITVX documentary series, Waco Untold: The British Stories, goes inside the Waco siege to explore the stories of the 23 British people who died during the 51-day siege, which culminated in an horrific fireball on April 19, 1993.

Winston, 28, was shot in the head when a bullet ripped through the wall as he ate breakfast in the compound’s kitchen on the opening day of the controversial siege.


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Speaking for the first time in an exclusive chat with the Sun, his nephew, Michael Johnson, reveals that – 30 years on – they are still no closer to finding out who murdered his beloved uncle.

Claims have been made that he was killed by one of his fellow Branch Davidians, while survivors allege that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) agents fired on them from helicopters.

Michael, 42, says: “We want to know who was responsible for our uncle's death. That's the one thing we want to know.

“We were told the gunpowder residue, the ammunition is the same that was used on both sides. So the ATF said, ‘well, it wasn't us’ and the people inside are saying, ‘why would we want to kill one of our brothers?’”

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He added: "All we know was there was a single gunshot wound.

“The ATF still has the bullet and fragments of his brain and we want to know why?"

Michael’s cousin Stephanie Blake, 51, also hits out at the church, saying they should also take "accountability" for his death.

She says: "The church should take some accountability. The church should have sent out an alert. This happened right under their noses in their institution."

Leader's UK visits

Using new testimony and reconstructions, the documentary series depicts how Koresh travelled to Britain to recruit Seventh Day Adventists to his sect, the Branch Davidians.

It explores why, transfixed by his claim he was the son of God, they travelled to his compound, Mount Carmel, in Texas.

Winston and Beverley grew up together as both their families were close.

They were introduced to the cult by her cousin, Livingstone Fagan, after he met charismatic Koresh in 1988 during one of the preacher’s many visits to Newbold College, in Bracknell, Berks, where Fagan was studying theology.

Koresh recruited Fagan to spread the word in Nottingham, where he held "secretive" and "late-night" bible study sessions, in the home belonging to the mum of Beverley’s best friend, Suzie Benta, who also later flew out to Waco.

Only those selected by former social worker Fagan could attend the meetings.

Michael, a credit controller, who now lives in Milton Keynes, says: “It was definitely a selective process, because only certain people were allowed to go to these meetings."

He believes Koresh and Fagan identified people who were receptive to their messagebecause they were "searching" for answers and impressed them because they were "eloquent and can recite passages in the Bible without picking up a book."

“Meetings went on for a long time, three or four hours," he says.

“It wasn’t just an hour of Bible study at 6pm, these were long drawn out meetings held late at night when the brain can be tired. It's not alert so you might not challenge things.

“I think they had their ways of breaking down some of the people."

Stephanie, a security officer, who still lives in Nottingham, added: “Fagan is a very intelligent man, so don't underestimate how he would have twisted this and twisted that. He is very smart."

Michael describes his uncle as a “gentle giant”.

He says: “He loved people and was a friend to everyone.”

Stephanie adds: “He was a bit of an odd job man. He was very good at painting and decorating. He helped so many people out in the church.

“I think he also did a bit of security and just little things like that. I think he was still finding this way. He was still a young man.”

Empty bank account

After an initial visit to Waco, Winston returned to Nottingham, telling his family he had been promised he could get work out there.

Stephanie recalls: “It was very positive when he came back. He was happy. We didn't see any signs of distress. He said he would be able to get a job out there."

But now she realises that first successful trip was all part of the indoctrination process.

She adds: "That's how they get you. They went out and had a nice experience, didn't they?"

Since making the documentary, the family have discovered Winston sold his possessions before he returned to Waco.

Stephanie says: “After filming, I was speaking to his friend that drove him to the airport the second time. He still has a plate set that he gave him. As well as selling things, he gave a lot of stuff away. If the family had known that, that would have set alarm bells ringing."

She adds: "If you're coming back, why are you selling your belongings to other people?"

Beverley’s sister also reveals in the film that they later discovered the pair emptied their bank accounts before flying out. She also tells how they could ring her, but she couldn’t ring them.

'Wives' as young as 12

Branch Davidians were forced to carry out chores during the day and attend bible study late into the night.

Koresh decreed all marriages null and void, and that all the women belonged to him. His favourite ‘wife’ was a 12-year-old girl.

He also confiscated their passports.

In late 1992, Michael recalls a tense phone call between his mum Sonia Johnson, now 64, and his Uncle Winston when she rang to tell him Beverley’s mum was seriously ill.

He says: “She said, ‘you guys need to come home as quick as possible. If it’s money, we can send you the money.

“Obviously I couldn’t hear what my uncle was saying but all I could hear was my mum saying, ‘What do you mean it's not that easy?”

Michael adds: “At that stage, we believe phone calls and things like that were being listened to so he couldn't say too much.”

Apocalypse warning

Some of the Branch Davidians did manage to escape but Winston suffered from issues with his knees that left him in a lot of pain.

Stephanie says: "That would have hindered him. He also would never have left without Beverley or Suzie either."

Stephanie says they used “scare tactics.” Koresh claimed to be the final prophet and convinced his followers he would steer them through the impending apocalypse.

He told them to “prepare for war” and stockpiled a hoard of more than 50 illegal machine guns, including a 50-calibre Barrett rifle that could penetrate an armoured vehicle.

This prompted the US government to send in agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to launch a raid on February 28, 1993.

But the cult members received a tip-off and armed themselves with rifles and grenades.

Winston tragically died that day. A high velocity bullet smashed into his skull just behind his right ear.

Michael learnt of his uncle's death after it was announced on the 6pm news on TV.

He says: "I just fell onto my cousin."

It is unclear how 27-year-old Beverley died.

In total, 86 people died, including 25 children, two pregnant women and Koresh.

Ashes through the post

Shockingly, the documentary tells how the mum of another British victim, Clifford Sellors, received her son's ashes in a parcel through the post.

Michael says: "As soon as my uncle died, they buried his body so it wasn't touched by the fire. We were the only family to get a whole body."

He also says: "You can find our uncle's autopsy report online. I’ve not looked at it, but there’s a little picture that shows you like where the bullet would have entered."

Both Stephanie and Michael's respective mothers are still too traumatised to publicly talk about losing their younger brother.

Stephanie received free counselling through work after her uncle’s death but admits if anyone mentions the word ‘Waco’  it’s like a "punch in your stomach".

Michael says: "I remember my mum coming back from the five-day inquest. I've never seen my mum look so exhausted. They would have had to hear a lot of things. Then at the end of the week to hear it's an open verdict.

"There's still no accountability, no closure."

The pair decided to speak out after decades of enduring a negative perception of people like their uncle.

Michael explains: “When things like this happen, there's been other cult tragedies that have happened, and generally the perception by the public that they were all wacky, weird people and they weren't.

"These were well-to-do. intelligent, smart, kind, loving people that just happened to get caught up in something, which they never knew was going to end in the way.

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"It's been a bit hard for our parents who were his siblings, his sisters. And so myself and Stephanie, we were more than happy to represent our family."

Stephanie adds: "They meant no harm."

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