Charles Manson: Murderous cult leader dies aged 83

Bethany Minelle, News Reporter

Former cult leader Charles Manson, who orchestrated the gruesome murders of pregnant actress Sharon Tate and six others, has died at 83.

Manson, who died after more than four decades behind bars, was behind a string of killings that shocked America, and the rest of the world, in the summer of 1969.

The guru-like Manson, who had a swastika tattooed on his forehead, died of natural causes at Kern County hospital, according to a California Department of Corrections statement.

He was taken to hospital last week.

Manson's name and image have become synonymous with evil, with many seeing his violent crimes as the death knell for the Swinging Sixties - the era of peace and love.

Manson led a cult known as the Manson Family in the late 1960s in which he instructed female followers to kill in a bid to initiate a race war.

His followers committed nine murders at four locations.

In the early hours of 9 August 1969, members of the cult repeatedly stabbed Tate, the heavily pregnant wife of Hollywood director Roman Polanski, and then stabbed or shot to death four other people at her home.

Supposedly inspired by Manson's reading of the Beatles song Helter Skelter, the killers scrawled such phrases as "Pigs" and "Healter Skelter" (sic) in blood at the crime scenes.

The following night, Manson's group entered the home of grocery store chain owner Leno LaBianca and his wife, and stabbed the couple to death.

Despite the overwhelming evidence against him, Manson maintained during his trial in 1970 that he was innocent, blaming society instead.

"These children that come at you with knives, they are your children. You taught them; I didn't teach them. I just tried to help them stand up," he said in courtroom.

In 1971 Manson was convicted of first degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder for the deaths of seven people.

Manson was in jail for more than 45 years. His death sentence was changed to seven life terms after California declared the death penalty unconstitutional in that state.

He was denied parole 12 times, most recently in 2012.

In January, Manson was taken to hospital for severe intestinal bleeding and needed surgery, but doctors said he was too weak and sent him back to prison.

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