FAITH HEALER OR FRAUD? Britain's Top Celebrities and Socialites Flock to This Man to Be Cured. So How Did a Former Chauffeur from Sarajevo Become the Most Sought after Therapist in London?

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HE IS the most talked-about healer in London, the man to whom former Cabinet Minister Jonathan Aitken turned before his disastrous libel trial. He boasts a string of famous clients, including comedienne Helen Lederer, who credits him with revitalising her lovelife, and astrologer Shelley von Strunckel, who claims he altered her whole perspective on life.

Yet the man in question - Momo Kovacevic - is a former shop assistant from Sarajevo who admits he has no training and no accreditation from any of the reputable healing organisations in Britain. Nor does he see any need for this. And neither, amazingly, do his celebrity clients, who are willing to pay [pounds sterling]50 for a 40-minute session.

Ten years ago, as a penniless Bosnian Serb, Momo arrived in London from the former Yugoslavia.

He was unable to speak English, had no job, no friends, only a wife and two small children to support. His prospects did not look good - he had left school at 18 and drifted into a series of badly paid jobs as a salesman, shop manager and chauffeur.

So how did 47-year-old Momo become the latest New Age sensation, able to charge up to [pounds sterling]250 to provide 'absent healing' for Aitken and his estranged (now former) wife Lolicia by staring at their photographs for half an hour each night? Or proudly flick through his crowded book of appointments, in which there are 'many many celebrities, television presenters, whose names I cannot tell you'.

Part of the reason is a glamorous blonde called Seka Nikolic who works as a healer at the Hale Clinic in London - the leading centre for complementary medicine in Britain where Diana, Princess of Wales was a frequent visitor - and who treated the Duke of York last year after he broke his foot.

Seka, who has enjoyed her fair share of media attention, happens to be Momo's younger sister and the woman who provided him with an entree into the capital's highly fashionable - and lucrative - world of alternative therapy.

LIKE his sister, Momo works in the controversial world of faith healing - or as he prefers to term it 'bio-energy' healing (he says he is a member of the Orthodox Church, but does not term himself a Christian). At the Kailash Centre in North London, where he works, he says that he can heal simply by passing his hands over the patient's body.

By doing this he says he locates negative energy which he then 'cleanses' away from the body through his hands, likening it to clearing a blocked drain.

He claims particular successes in illnesses such as ME (myalgic encephalomyelitis) and depression - as doctors point out, conditions in which psychology plays a large role in recovery - and says he once managed to cure his wife's scalded arm within 20 minutes, after she had spilt a pan of boiling water over herself.

The outside of the Kailash Centre for Oriental Medicine seems conventional enough - a yellow-hued Regency building hidden away in leafy St John's Wood.

Inside, it is a temple to alternative therapies from every part of the world - China, Tibet, India and the Far East.

Pictures of Buddha decorate the walls and the pungent fumes of joss-sticks assault your senses.

In contrast, Momo's workplace is a spartan whitewashed room in the basement, furnished with only a desk, two chairs, a sink and doctor's couch.

The only splash of colour is a hanging curtain with a picture of a tiger on it.

I had booked an appointment to see for myself what Momo is really like, and to experience his reported extraordinary powers.

Tall, lanky, with silver-streaked hair and a clipped goatee beard, he moved noiselessly around the room. We sat down and he asked what my problem was. I said that I was always tired and lacked energy (a problem that could probably be solved by going to bed at a decent hour). But Momo nodded wisely, gestured to me to take off my shoes and asked me to stand in the middle of the small room. …