The youngest member of Charles Manson’s murderous cult has described one of the most notorious killers of the 20th century as a “little con man”.
Dianne Lake was 14 when she joined the ‘family’, and in an exclusive interview with Sunday Night she described how she has been haunted all her life by the two years she spent living with Manson.
Manson, the mastermind behind one of America’s most infamous murder sprees, died last Sunday in a California hospital of natural causes. He was 83 years old.
Dianne told Sunday Night’s Angela Cox she met Manson, who presented himself as a new age guru, at a party and within hours they began sleeping together.
“I thought he was good looking, you know, playful and he was just super friendly, had a nice voice,” Dianne recalled.
“He was funny and he was very gentle and… I was mesmerized.”
Manson administered his impressionable devotees with LSD to control their minds and convinced them he was the ‘son of God’.
In August 1969, Manson instructed his second in command, Tex Watson, and three of his most loyal followers to break into the home of upcoming Hollywood actress, Sharon Tate. Dianne wasn’t invited on the murderous mission.
Sharon, who was eight and a half months pregnant was killed along with four other guests. They were all shot or stabbed to death. The sixth victim at the house was Sharon’s unborn child.
The brutal killing spree continued the following day, when Manson and his brainwashed followers broke into the home of wealthy grocery wholesalers, Leno and Rosemary La Bianca.
The pair were stabbed and suffocated, and bloody messages were smeared throughout the house.
When Manson was arrested, the trial of the charismatic cult leader and his family of disciples captivated the world.
Dianne’s testimony helped prosecutors win guilty verdicts against them all.
“I really needed to come out and say what I knew,” Dianne said. “I saw him for the little conman that he was.”
The killers were initially sentenced to death, but when capital punishment was abolished in California, they were given life sentences.
After leaving the Manson family, Dianne spent months in a psychiatric hospital being treated for LSD-induced schizophrenia.
She went on to become a teacher and eventually raised her own family, but her time in Manson’s clan still haunts her.
Asked by Angela Cox if she would have killed if Manson ordered her to, she said she was thankful she hadn’t been put to the test.
“I don’t think I could have, but I have pondered the question and thanked God I wasn’t involved,” she said.
Dianne’s incredible story of lost innocence, survival and healing is detailed in her new memoir, ‘Member of the Family’. Available in book stores now.
For your chance to win one of 20 copies of Dianne’s book, enter our competition.