RealTime

A Mother’s Heartbreak: “I Raised a Monster”

Mike Rinder devastated his elderly mother, crushed her hope, then denied her one dying wish

Mike Rinder with parents Barbara and Ian Rinder, England, ca. 1970
Mike Rinder with parents Barbara and Ian Rinder, England, ca. 1970

When Mike Rinder shamefully tricked an Alzheimer’s patient to give him and his girlfriend unauthorized access to his mother’s residence in an assisted-living facility in Melbourne, Australia, it left his mother so shaken she not only moved out, but also came to realize how far her son had fallen.

For Rinder himself, disappointing his mother, Barbara Rinder, was a new low, but not unfamiliar. Three years earlier, in 2007, he had deserted and disconnected from his wife and children, whom Barbara adored. He then slammed the door on his mother’s dreams of reuniting the family when in 2009 he began attacking the Scientology religion and its leader, a personal friend of the family. Barbara and her husband, Ian Rinder, were founding members of the Church of Scientology in Australia, and she was the proud matriarch of a family of four generations of Scientologists.

Barbara wrote Mike from Melbourne in August 2009, dismayed by his assaults on what she and the family stood for.

“You are compromising every single member of this, your family. Michael you are destroying everything that Ian and I have been trying to achieve for the personal freedom for all family members since 1961. I need a promise from you to desist from these actions. It is important for me to know that this situation is handled promptly, because there is not a lot of mileage left in this body,” she wrote.

“I have stood by you for many, many years, and you owe it to me to comply with this request. Please let me know you have.”

Barbara Rinder with daughter-in-law Cathy and granddaughter Taryn, Melbourne, Australia, 2010
Barbara Rinder with daughter-in-law Cathy and granddaughter Taryn, Melbourne, Australia, 2010

Rinder did not respond to his mother. Years later, he admitted he was acutely aware of the strain he was placing on his mother’s health.

“She was pretty old. She had had a heart transplant already, and I was worried that if I spoke out publicly it might literally kill her,” he said.

But Mike Rinder was being paid and supported to publicly attack the Church, and making money was far more important to him than his mother’s life. He continued his attacks and his disregard for his mother, who wrote him again in February 2010.

“Mike, I asked you to stop attacking my Church and get on with your life and leave us alone. … You aren’t hearing me. I have done nothing to you to deserve this, no matter what you think. What you are doing makes my life harder to live. I have never done anything to you to make your life hard to live—it’s simply not fair. You owe it to me.…this is the LEAST you can do and the only thing I am asking for.”

Barbara Rinder’s letter of August 2009 to her son was one of several asking him to stop attacking the family’s religion and let the family live in peace. “Michael you are destroying everything that Ian and I have been trying to achieve for the personal freedom for all family members since 1961.”
Barbara Rinder’s letter of August 2009 to her son was one of several asking him to stop attacking the family’s religion and let the family live in peace. “Michael you are destroying everything that Ian and I have been trying to achieve for the personal freedom for all family members since 1961.”

Mike Rinder then brought his attacks to her doorstep. Family members were able to piece together what lay behind Rinder’s sudden appearance in Melbourne in July 2010, where he proceeded to trick his way into his mother’s residence. All they had to do was “follow the money.”

An Australian tabloid TV show wanted to film Rinder outside the Sydney Church of Scientology, so they gave him an expense-paid trip from Florida to Sydney with his girlfriend. Rinder took his excursion to Melbourne and went to his mother’s assisted-living home only after he received tabloid TV funding for the trip.

Rinder has falsified circumstances ever since, hiding his sponsored TV junket as the real reason he went Down Under. “[We] went to Australia to try and see my mother when she was in a nursing home,” he said in one of several media performances that, for added effect, also included: “It was a long way to travel.”

When Mike Rinder showed up at his mother’s residence, he learned from the receptionist that his mother was out of town. Having long since severed communication with his family, Rinder didn’t know that all of his Australian relatives, joined by his wife and daughter from the U.S., were enjoying a reunion vacation on Australia’s eastern coast.

Mike Rinder’s daughter, Taryn, and his mother, Barbara, in Barbara’s Melbourne residence before departing for a family reunion, July 2010
Mike Rinder’s daughter, Taryn, and his mother, Barbara, in Barbara’s Melbourne residence before departing for a family reunion, July 2010

Rinder was undeterred. In fact, getting into his mother’s apartment seemed to be of greater interest to him than seeing her. Rinder scoped out other residents and zeroed in on an octogenarian woman who was suffering from Alzheimer’s.

Rinder convinced the woman to help him, wooing her with a box of chocolates. She instructed an unsuspecting housekeeper to let Rinder and his paramour into his mother’s room, where they rummaged through drawers and belongings. They also snapped photographs which they later posted online and served to document their illicit entry.

At the end of the family vacation, none the wiser about Mike’s visit, his wife and daughter drove Barbara back home. His wife recalls: “She opened the door and she goes, ‘Oh my God, someone’s broken in.’ And she was shaking. Everything was moved in a different location. Her photo of Ian had been moved. And she burst out crying.”

The facility management did not know anyone had entered Barbara’s residence. The family pieced together that Mike Rinder had finagled his way in through the elderly neighbor.

Rinder’s daughter, Taryn, vividly recalls her grandmother’s sorrow. “She just turned to me and she said, ‘I’ve been violated by my own son.’ That was the one line that said it all, that tells you everything.…It’s already bad enough, and then to bring a total stranger, while he’s still married to my mother, into my grandmother’s room?…It was devastating.”

Mike Rinder at Barbara Rinder’s assisted-living facility in July 2010 with paramour Christie Collbran and the woman (holding chocolate box from Rinder) he cajoled into helping him gain unauthorized entry to his mother’s residence
Mike Rinder at Barbara Rinder’s assisted-living facility in July 2010 with paramour Christie Collbran and the woman (holding chocolate box from Rinder) he cajoled into helping him gain unauthorized entry to his mother’s residence

A tearful Barbara Rinder was so unsettled, she wanted to move to “some place where she felt safe,” Cathy Rinder said, adding that her mother-in-law had one final heartbreaking confession.

“She goes, ‘I am so sorry. I am so sorry,’” Cathy recalls. “I said, ‘What are you sorry about?’ And she goes, ‘I raised a monster. And I can’t believe it.’ That’s why she was crying. It ripped her heart out.”

Holding on to a last hope for her son, Barbara reached out to Mike again. “The fact that you had a strange, young woman in the room with you taking photos is so low, it is reprehensible. Do you have any decency left? I hope you come to your senses.”

Melbourne, 1980: (seated) Cathy with Taryn; Barbara and Ian Rinder, their daughter Jude and (standing) sons Mike and Andrew, and Andrew’s wife and daughter. Before Barbara’s passing in 2013, she was the proud matriarch of a family of four generations of Scientologists.
Melbourne, 1980: (seated) Cathy with Taryn; Barbara and Ian Rinder, their daughter Jude and (standing) sons Mike and Andrew, and Andrew’s wife and daughter. Before Barbara’s passing in 2013, she was the proud matriarch of a family of four generations of Scientologists.

In Barbara Rinder’s final days in 2013, her Australian family was constantly by her bedside and Cathy and Taryn frequently spoke to her on the phone. Barbara wanted nothing more than to hear from Mike with a promise to cease his attacks on everything she and the family stood for, for the family’s sake.

“‘The last thing that I’m waiting for is to hear back from Mike,’” Barbara told Cathy. “‘That he will do this for me and that he’s reformed so that I can die peacefully and not die with this horrible feeling and a heavy heart that I raised this monster.’

“She, literally, was hanging in that bed waiting—you know, waiting for word. Kind of like ‘There is no way he would do this.’

“Yes, there is,” Cathy said.

“That’s the way it went every phone call until the day she died. She did pass away, and Mike did not answer her last wish. And she died with that on her heart.”

Barbara Rinder 1930–2013
Barbara Rinder
1930–2013