It was 50 years ago that members of Californian cult the Manson ‘Family’ committed a series crimes so heinous they both horrify and fascinate the world to this day.
Late on August 8, 1969, the Manson Family invaded the Hollywood Hills home of actor Sharon Tate.
The former pageant queen was two weeks away from giving birth to her first child, a son to be named Paul.
Ordered by leader Charles Manson, the followers stabbed, beat, hanged and shot to death Tate, 26, and three friends during the first of a two-night killing spree that drew a line under the naivety and innocence of the so-called Summer of Love.
With her director husband Roman Polanski in London, Valley of the Dolls star Tate had dined out with celebrity hairdresser Jay Sebring, coffee heiress Abigail Folger and screenwriter Wocjeich Frykowski.
They all headed back to the rented mansion at 10050 Cielo Drive where the infamous bloodbath took place.
On their way to the Tate house, Manson family members shot to death teenager Steven Parent, who was visiting a friend at the estate’s guesthouse.
The next night, Manson took followers to the home of wealthy grocery store owners Leno and Rosemary LaBianca. Manson tied up the couple and left, ordering his crew to kill them.
Here’s a look at the main players in the summer days of terror that form the backdrop for countless books, documentaries and movies – most recently Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, which opens in Australia on August 15.
A former pimp and convict who was on the fringes of Hollywood’s music scene thanks to his association with Beach Boys co-founder Dennis Wilson, Manson became a self-proclaimed guru of free love in the late 1960s.
He attracted young followers, mostly women, to his headquarters at the Spahn Ranch on the outskirts of LA.
Manson sent them out to kill the city’s wealthy and famous, and in 1971 was sentenced to death for his family’s murderous rampage.
Manson’s sentence was commuted and he spent almost the next 50 years in prison, dying of a heart attack in November 2017 at the age of 83.
Teenage runaway Atkins was working as a topless dancer in San Francisco in 1967 when she met Manson. After testifying she was “stoned on acid” and didn’t know how many times she stabbed Tate while she pleaded for her life, she was convicted of the Tate, LaBianca and Hinman murders.
Atkins died behind bars of brain cancer in 2009 at age 61.
LESLIE VAN HOUTEN
The high school cheerleader turned to drugs at 14 after her parents’ divorce and had given up a secretarial course to become a hippie at 19 when she met Manson at his ranch.
She had no part in the Tate murders but held down Rosemary LaBianca with a pillowcase over her head as others stabbed the mother of one. Ordered by another Manson follower to “do something”, van Houten stabbed Mrs LaBianca over a dozen times.
Convicted of murder in 1971, Van Houten, now 69, has earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in counselling in jail. Her recommended parole has been blocked three times. “My entire incarceration has been a slow process of coming back to where I was before,” she told CNN’s Larry King in a 1994 interview.
Three days after meeting Manson at a party, the 19-year-old one-time aspiring nun left her life behind to follow him.
She later said she was kept drugged after trying to leave the cult when Manson bartered her for sex.
At a 2016 parole hearing Krenwinkel testified she repeatedly stabbed Abigail Folger. After Manson told her to “do something witchy”, she also stabbed Leno LaBianca and wrote slogans including ‘Helter Skelter’ and ‘Death to Pigs’ with his blood on walls.
“I wanted this man’s love,” she said of Manson. Krenwinkel, 71, is California’s longest-serving female prisoner.
CHARLES ‘TEX’ WATSON
A university dropout and wig salesman, Watson met Manson at Dennis Wilson’s house. He became Manson’s right hand man and led the Tate and LaBianca murders.
In prison Watson became a born-again Christian and formed a ministry. He fathered four children through conjugal visits, authored several books and has repeatedly been denied parole.
LYNETTE ‘SQUEAKY’ FROMME
Fromme was a child dancer who performed on TV and at the White House but fell into drugs as a teenager and at 19 was homeless when she crossed paths with Manson.
She was reportedly traded to the Spahn Ranch’s owner for cheap rent.
Not implicated in the Tate or LaBianca murders, Fromme spent nearly 34 years in prison for pointing a gun at President Gerald Ford in 1975. Released in 2009, the 69-year-old lives a quiet life in New York.
Kasabian moved in with the family a few weeks before the murders and acted as lookout during the Tate and LaBianca murders. She turned herself in and was granted immunity, testifying for the state for 18 days as Manson made throat-slashing gestures.
Now 68, Kasabian – who changed her name and reportedly lives in a caravan park – appeared in disguise in a 2009 CNN interview, saying she still carried guilt and was “trying to live a quiet life”.