Sunday Times reporter followed 'shaman' to South America, £1m fraud trial told

A Sunday Times reporter has told how he travelled to South America to allow a "shaman" accused of exploiting vulnerable people the right of reply.

Tim Rayment appeared in court this week in the trial of Juliette D'Souza,  59, who he spent nine months investigating for The Sunday Times Magazine, according to the Camden New Journal.

His probe led him to a luxurious home in Suriname in 2008, where he claims he was followed by D'Souza's partner, who he understood to be the country's head of immigration.

Rayment told Blackfriars Crown Court that he and his photographer were standing outside the house, where they believed D'Souza to be, before being approached in a car by Tjin-a-Ton, who the reporter claims then followed them.

Rayment,  then told the court how he feared the man could prevent him from leaving the country, so planned to leave the next day.

The court heard how he spent that night tearing up documents and flushing them down the toilet because the hotel was patrolled by undercover police officers. He and his photographer also emailed as many pictures as they could for fear they could be detained.

Despite being stopped at the airport, Rayment said he was able to return to the UK.

Rayment said he took on the story after the magazine was approached by alleged victims. He rejected claims by the defence that he had taken on the story purely for financial reasons as the alleged victims attempted to get "revenge" on D'Souza.

According to the Camden New Journal, he said: “I’m motivated by old-fashioned motivations of journalism, which is whether a story is interesting or whether it is in the public interest. It is a pompous thing to claim but it is true.

“If a story is worth telling, it should have several components and one of those components, I believe, is the public interest. This story met that test.

“The whole reason I went to Suriname and I remember the memo I wrote to my editor – [Ms D’Souza] had a right in my mind, as well as a legal right in my mind, to answer the allegations against her. That was why I went.”

Previously the paper reported how the court heard D’Souza had conned wealthy people from Hampstead out of £1m to “fuel a designer lifestyle by claiming she had supernatural powers that could cure terminal cancer, infertility and disabled children”.

D’Souza, of Perrins Lane, Hampstead, denies 23 counts of obtaining property by deception and fraud between 1998 and 2010 from 11 victims.

The trial continues. 

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