Twelve members of a religious group in Toowoomba have been arrested after the death of an eight-year-old girl, who Queensland police say was allegedly denied life-saving medication in the belief she would be healed by God.
Elizabeth Rose Struhs had type 1 diabetes and died in her family’s Rangeville home, west of Brisbane, on 7 January. Police allege her parents, who have previously been charged with murder, began withholding insulin six days earlier.
Police allege paramedics were not called to the scene until 5.30pm the next day, with the Courier Mail reporting members of the church group believed she would be resurrected.
The girl’s parents, Kerrie Elizabeth Struhs and Jason Richard Struhs, were charged with murder and torture offences earlier this year. They have not yet entered pleas, and will remain in custody until their next hearing at the Toowoomba magistrates court, due later this month. They are also charged with failing to provide the necessities of life.
Police allege others bear culpability in Elizabeth’s death.
Tuesday’s arrests were of other members of their small and tightly-knit religious group who were allegedly present when the eight-year-old died, reportedly singing and praying to God to heal her.
Detective Acting Supt Garry Watts alleged all 12 were aware of Elizabeth’s condition, were present during the course of those fateful six days and did not take any steps to provide medical assistance. He said the religious group comprised three families and that those arrested included seven women and five men.
Two were in their 60s, a man and a woman, one was a 19-year-old man and the rest were in their 20s and 30s. All were arrested in a Harristown home.
Elizabeth’s sister Jayde Struhs, the eldest of eight siblings, told Nine’s A Current Affair earlier this year that the group referred to themselves as The Saints.
Struhs, 23, said the group formed as a breakaway from a more mainstream church which they believed to be corrupt and had become stricter over the years.
They did not celebrate Christmas, rejected medical intervention and believed their one purpose was to serve God.
“They’re extreme. They’re small. Controlled,” she said.