The Man With 80 Wives
In 2006, the fugitive cult leader Warren Jeffs had eluded a two-year FBI manhunt. So where was he?
“He has a nice manner for a documentary TV interrogator, does Sanjiv: slightly bumbling, ingenuous, soft-spoken, wide-eyed, innately self-critical.” The Herald
The Man With 80 Wives is an hour of me running around America looking for Warren Jeffs, the then-prophet of the FLDS – the largest polygamist group in the country. I was the writer/presenter, it was produced by Talent TV, directed by Lucy Leveugle, and it ran on Channel Four, 10.50pm July 19th, 2006. About six weeks before Jeffs was captured.
At the time he was a fugitive who’d been on the run from the FBI for 18 months or so, and had built a temple on the YFZ ranch in Eldorado Texas that was making a lot of people nervous. There was talk of suicide pacts, Waco and so on. It was the height of his power, in some ways, and things were tense. His followers were paranoid and fearful. Families were being broken up, wives and children redistributed. My mission was to try and figure out where Jeffs was hiding, so we set off – myself, Lucy and the producer Gareth – following Warren’s trail from Colorado City to Texas to Canada and even to Florida. We met victims, family members, former followers and the FBI. We met with hostility and the tears of grown men. It was a hell of a journey.
Having researched polygamy a lot more thoroughly since, there are obviously things I would change if I could, like the “80 Wives” part. That was the number people were telling us at the time – pure guesswork, no one knew for sure. We’ve since learned that he had 78 wives, so they weren’t far off.
- A piece about the documentary in the Independent (including a prediction of how Jeffs would be caught).
- A review by The Guardian: “…a likable reporter who smoothed over rebuffs (there were many) with charm…”