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Leader Of Australia's Most Notorious Cult 'The Family' Dies Aged 97

Anne Hamilton-Byrne, the matriarch and co-founder of The Family cult, has reportedly died in a suburban nursing home in Melbourne.

Chris Johnston, an author who has followed the family closely, confirmed on Twitter on Friday the notorious figurehead had passed away.

She was 97 years old.

Hamilton-Byrne, who was a charismatic yoga instructor at the time, founded The Family in 1963 with Melbourne University academic Raynor Johnson.

She managed to operate the doomsday cult in near-total secrecy for the next two decades and amassed a following of almost 500 members.

Convinced she was the reincarnation of Jesus Christ, she acquired numerous children -- some born to cult members and others through adoption scams -- and raised them as her own.

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The children, who at one point numbered up to 28, were isolated from the outside world on a property in Lake Eildon -- dressed in matching outfits and given identical dyed blonde hair.

Image: CBS/ Church Street Films

They were also allegedly beaten, starved, and upon reaching a certain age, given extreme doses of LSD as part of an initiation ritual.

The kids -- who thought they were brothers and sisters -- were rescued by police in 1987 after the increasing number of dodgy adoptions tipped them off.

Hamilton-Byrne died on Thursday night after suffering from dementia since 2007, according to the Herald Sun.

"I shed not one tear today," Former Victoria Police detective Lex de Man, who played a major role in the investigation into the cult, told the outlet.

"Today for me brings to an end the life of one of Victoria's most evil people."

In 2017, the former detective told CBS's 48 Hours "his whole life was wrapped up in this investigation".

More to come.