Cult leader Jim Jones led over 900 people to their deaths in November 1978.
Let's take a look at the mass murderer who was responsible for the Jonestown massacre.
Jim Jones was born in rural Indiana in 1931.
As a young boy Jones was obsessed with religion and obsessively studied the works of Stalin, Marx, Mao, Hitler and Gandhi.
Neighbours claim he would hold macabre funerals for animals in his backyard.
He is also said to have stabbed a cat to death as a child.
His father was a World War One veteran who suffered from health problems.
Jones’ parents split in 1948 prompting he and his mother to move to the city of Richmond.
A charismatic speaker, Jones became a student pastor at the Somerset Methodist Church in a poor area of Indianapolis.
By the mid-1950s, he had opened his first church, Wings of Deliverance, in the city.
Jones was known as being progressive and a large part of his congregation were from ethnic minority groups.
In fact, around 67 per cent of those who would eventually die in Jonestown were African American – most of them women.
By the 1960s, Jones’ displays of faith healing and supposed mind reading were attracting an even larger number of followers.
His church by this time was named the Peoples Temple and was affiliated with the Disciples of Christ – a group which later ordained him.
By the mid-60s, Jones and his wife Marceline, who he had married in 1949, moved their temple to California which at that time had around 100 followers.
The cult leader mixed biblical teachings with Marxism in what he called “apostolic socialism.”
By the 1970s, he had temples in San Francisco and Los Angeles.
His charisma and involvement in humanitarian causes endeared him to Californian politicians resulting in him being appointed as head of San Francisco’s housing authority.
However, what was not well known to the wider public was his abhorrent treatment of his followers who he would bully, humiliate and physically assault.
He even forced some of the church’s members to sign over their possessions, including their homes, to him.
More vulnerable members of the group, particularly those from minorities, were told that if they fled the Peoples Temple they would be detained by the government and held in concentration camps.
Members were told to cut themselves off from family members who were not part of the group.
In 1977, Jones fled to Guyana in South America, where around 30 members had established a farming community, just before a reporter published an article about the church’s financial improprieties.
The compound had been developed over a three to four year period and would be the scene of the infamous mass murder a year later.
Hundreds of church members then followed Jones whose drug abuse and mental health are said to have deteriorated badly around this period.
Like many cult leaders, Jones had sex with many of his followers – both men and women.
He would also make his congregation take part in a practice known as “white nights” which were rehearsals for the mass killing which was to come.
In audio recordings of these rehearsals, Jones would tell church members that “capitalist pigs” such as the CIA and other US government intelligence agencies wanted to kill them.
On at least two occasions, the group voted for a “revolutionary suicide” and simulated killing themselves using poison.
In November 1978, US Congressman Leo Ryan and a delegation visited Jonestown after the US Embassy in Guyana expressed concern that some followers were being subjected to physical and psychological abuse.
Ryan’s delegation of 18 people included journalists such as NBC reporter Don Harris and a camera crew.
When the group arrived in Jonestown on November 17 some church members told the reporters and Ryan that they wanted to leave.
Some even passed the politician a note reading: “Please get us out of Jonestown.”
The delegation left the following day accompanied by several of the terrified church members.
However, when the group attempted to board a small plane at the nearby Port Kaituma airstrip, they were confronted by armed members of the cult.
The brainwashed followers shot and killed five people including Congressman Ryan and three members of the press.
Eleven members were wounded in the shooting.
Back at the camp, Jones convinced his scared and vulnerable followers that the incident would result in US authorities coming to Jonestown and committing mass murder.
The group carried out the “revolutionary suicide” they had practised - mixing a fruit-flavoured drink, often referred to as Kool Aid, with deadly cyanide, tranquillisers, and sedatives.
Babies and children were the first to be given the poison.
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