Children accused of witchcraft: abuse cases on the rise in UK (2014)

Whereas the criminal practice of ritualistic murders is a revolting and sad one, another phenomenon also draws our attention.  Both phenomena relate to superstition. Of course I know that fearing witches or, rather, fearing persons who people believe are possessed by an evil spirit or are thought to be witches is a universal superstition that can be found on all continents of the globe. Moreover, I certainly do not want to stigmatize a particular group of people or race. However, the focus of this website being on ritualistic practices notably ritual murders in Africa, I cannot ignore the occurrence of ritualistic murders committed by Africans that take place outside the continent.
For this reason I drew attention to the high profile case of the torso of a small black boy (‘Adam’) that was found floating in the river Thames in 2001. It proved to be a case of ritualistic murder, very likely committed by persons originating from West Africa. Unfortunately, also reports exist of ritual practices – even killings – of persons of African descent in other European countries (more later on this site).

The inclusion of the cases reported below is justified by the same reason – though these cases do not represent ritual murders. The ’cause-in-common’ of these distinct but related crimes is: superstition. Whereas the battle against superstition should be fought with all strength and conviction that we have, the rule of law should be strictly applied to those who commit these heinous crimes, be it murdering or torturing innocent people, notably children. Their suffering in the hands of the perpetrators of these crimes should end as soon as possible. Each new case is a case too much.
(Webmaster FVDK).

Children accused of witchcraft: abuse cases on the rise in UK (2014) 

Victoria Climbié (left) and Kristy Bamu (right), tortured to death by relatives
who were sentenced to life imprisonment (UK)

Published: October 16, 2014
By: RELIGION NEWS BLOG

London’s Metropolitan Police reports that cases of abuse where the child is accused of being a witch or possessed by an evil spirit are on the rise.

Thus far this year 27 allegations have been received — up from 24 in 2013.

There were 19 such cases reported in 2012, and 9 in 2011. Some 148 cases have been referred to the Metropolitan Police since 2004.

The rise in the number of reports is likely due to greater awareness among social workers, healthcare staff, teachers, pastors and others.

However, police believe many more cases are kept hidden in families and communities.

Parents, other guardians, and in several cases pastors and church members who believe a child is possessed often resort to physical abuse in order to try and get the spirits to leave.

New guidance has now been issued on how to spot children at risk of abuse linked to witchcraft.

On October 8, the Metropolitan Police Service and CCPAS,  the Churches’ Child Protection Advisory Service, hosted a multi-agency event at London’s City Hall to raise awareness of child abuse linked to faith or belief.

Speaking ahead of the conference, Det Supt Terry Sharpe explained:

“Abuse linked to belief is a horrific crime which is condemned by people of all cultures, communities and faiths.

“A number of high-profile investigations brought the issue of ritual abuse and witchcraft into the headlines but it is important that professionals are clear about the signs to look for.

“Families or carers genuinely believe that the victim has been completely taken over by the devil or an evil spirit, which is often supported by someone who within the community has portrayed themselves as an authority on faith and belief.

“Regardless of the beliefs of the abusers, child abuse is child abuse. Our role is to safeguard children, not challenge beliefs. We investigate crimes against children, but our main aim is to prevent abuse in the first place. This is a hidden crime and we can only prevent it by working in partnership with the community. Project Violet aims to build trust with communities and emphasise that child protection is everyone’s responsibility.”

A training film aimed at all front-line professionals who work with children was launched at the event. The DVD, commissioned by our Project Violet team in conjunction with CCPAS, advises how to recognise the signs that a child may be suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm from abuse linked to witchcraft and spirit possession.

According to CCPAS the training DVD will be made provided to Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCBs) so they may make it available to social workers and other front line staff.

HIGH-PROFILE CASES

Victoria Climbié

High-profile cases include Victoria Climbié  (link added by the webmaster FVDK) whose great-aunt and her boyfriend — along with their pastor — believed the girl was demon-possessed.

Beaten, burned with cigarettes and forced to sleep in a bathtub, the 8-year-old girl died in February, 2000 — with 128 injuries on her body.

In 2001 the headless, limbless body of a boy aged between five and six was found floating in the river Thames. Evidence strongly suggests the boy was sacrificed in a Muti ritual.
(See elsewhere on this site, ‘The unsolved case of the torso in the Thames’. The murder boy was ‘named ‘Adam’ by the investigators. Information added by the webmaster FVDK).

In 2010, 15-year-old Kristy Bamu was tortured for three days by his sister and his boyfriend after being accused of witchcraft, and was subsequently drowned in a bathtub during an exorcism ritual. 

HUMAN TRAFFICKING

In 2005 a leaked police report revealed that children are being trafficked  into the country in order to be killed as human sacrifices:

A confidential report into the sacrifice and abuse of children at African churches describes how pastors are profiting from the trafficking of black boys into Britain.

Uncircumcised boys are being smuggled into the country for human sacrifice by fundamentalist sects whose members believe that their ritual killing will enhance spells.

TYPES OF WITCHCRAFT

Most reported cases involve what is known as “traditional witchcraft” as opposed to “contemporary witchcraft.”

  • Traditional Witchcraft, such as performed by shamans or witch doctors, is a magical practice — not a religion. However, it can have religious elements.
  • Contemporary Witchcraft is one of many types of neo-Paganism. It is religion within the broader context of occultism. 

MANY COUNTRIES

The problem of children who are accused of witchcraft is not limited to England. But after several high-profile cases there is a greater awareness — and official response — that highlights such cases.

Immigration also plays a role in the rise of reports — as many immigrants bring along various beliefs and superstitions. 

Many Christian churches in Africa are part of the problem as well — as traditional beliefs are mingled with Christian theology regarding demons and exorcism.

In 2009, the Associated Press reported

An increasing number of children in Africa accused of witchcraft by pastors and then tortured or killed, often by family members. Pastors were involved in half of 200 cases of “witch children” reviewed by the AP, and 13 churches were named in the case files. 

Some of the churches involved are renegade local branches of international franchises. Their parishioners take literally the Biblical exhortation, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.” 

Screen shot – the link to the source (below) gives acces to the video ‘Witch Child Documentary’

In 2010 UNICEF, the United Nations’ children’s charity, said that accusing children of sorcery was a fairly new and growing trend in Africa, despite long-held traditional and mystic beliefs on the continent.

Where previously elderly women were accused, today the focus more often falls on young children, often some of the most vulnerable, such as orphans, disabled or poor.

Throughout Africa, the vast majority of children accused of witchcraft are not murdered but — if torture has not helped remove the evil spirits — are expelled from their homes and communities.

 Exploring Issues of Witchcraft and Spirit Possession in London’s African communities

Child Abuse Linked to Accusations of Possession and Witchcraft — Eleanor Stobart, Dept. of Education and Skills

Source: Children accused of Witchcraft: abuse cases on the rise in UK

Related articles:

Rise in ‘witchcraft’ child abuse cases
Published: October 8, 2014
By: BBC
(extensive coverage of Victoria Climbié’s murder)

Rise in cases of ritual child abuse linked to witchcraft beliefs reported, say police 
“Threefold increase in allegations, say police, including two claims of rape and of children beaten ‘to drive out the devil’” 
Published: October 8, 2014
By: The Guardian
(with numerous articles on Kristy Namu’s murder)

Child abuse linked to witchcraft on the increase
“Met reveals it has investigated allegations of children having chilli rubbed into their eyes and being forced to drink noxious liquids in order to rid them of evil spirits.”
Published: October 8, 2014
By: Martin Evans, Crime correspondent, The Telegraph

The unsolved case of the torso in the Thames (2001) 2004-2005 articles – Part III

People-smuggler to be quizzed over boy’s body in Thames
Published: July 27, 2004
By: RELIGION NEWS BLOG

A child trafficker who may have helped smuggle the River Thames “torso boy” into Britain was jailed for four-and- a-half years yesterday.

Kingsley Ojo headed a “substantial” network thought to have brought hundreds of youngsters and adults into the country to work in the sex trade, as domestic slaves or for benefit fraud. Now police hope he can shed some light on the ritual murder of the five-year-old boy they named Adam.

Southwark Crown Court in London heard that Ojo was arrested last year during a co-ordinated series of raids in the capital. He claimed to be Mousa Kamara, 30, from Sierra Leone but was soon identified as a 35-year-old Nigerian, originally from Benin City, where Adam used to live.

The court heard that Ojo had come to Britain in 1997 posing as an asylum seeker from Sierra Leone.

When police searched his flat, they found a video mock-up of ritual killings, a shot of what appeared to be a decapitated head in a basin and a voodoo artefact in the form of a rat’s skull, pierced by a long metal spike and bound in black thread.

Ojo, of Devonshire Close, Stratford, east London, admitted four charges. Two involved dishonestly obtaining a British passport in July 1999, and using a forged driving licence with intent to deceive, while two related to assisting illegal entry into this country in November 2002 and February last year.

Judge Neil Stewart said the offences were so serious that prison was inevitable. He told Ojo: “I’m satisfied your continued presence would be to the detriment of this country and I make a recommendation that you be deported upon your release from prison.”

Detective Chief Inspector Will O’Reilly, the head of the investigation into the unidentified boy’s death, said later that Ojo had been detained because of his close association with a woman, Joyce Osagiede, who was arrested in Scotland. “We believe she is closely involved in the Adam case … we also believe he assisted with her entry into the country,” he said.

He went on: “I firmly believe he [Ojo] can assist us with our inquiries and we will be looking to speak to him as soon as possible.”

Osagiede, who has since been repatriated to Nigeria, also came from Benin City, and the pair lived together for a while at a London address.

The woman, who had Ojo’s address among her belongings, told immigration officers that she had fled her country due to being caught up in a ritual cult.

She claimed her husband, who was arrested in Dublin last year and later deported to Germany, had been involved in a group which carried out “demonic rituals”. He had, she said, played an active part in the deaths of 11 children, one of whom had been their eldest child.

In her flat, police found chicken feathers and a number of other items used in west African curses. They also found clothes believed to have come from the same shop in Germany as the orange shorts found on the headless, limbless body of the child which was found floating near Tower Bridge in central London almost three years ago.

Osagiede’s two daughters are still in foster care in Scotland.

Source: People-smuggler to be quizzed over boy’s body in Thames

Related article:
Jail for torso case people smuggler
Published: July 27, 2004
By: RELIGION NEWS BLOG

A man suspected of having smuggled into the UK an African boy whose torso was later found in the Thames was jailed for four years and six months for people trafficking yesterday.

Kingsley Ojo, 35, from Stratford, east London, admitted four charges: bringing two men, whom he provided with false papers, into Britain in November 2002 and February 2003, and using a forged driving licence and passport.

Ojo headed a “substantial” network that is thought to have smuggled in hundreds of children and adults to work as prostitutes or domestic slaves.

Scotland Yard detectives do not think he killed the boy, named Adam by police, whose headless and limbless torso was recovered from the Thames in September 2001. But they believe he could hold the key to the horrific ritual murder.

Officers were initially baffled by the gruesome find. But painstaking forensic analysis of the boy’s bones established his diet, which narrowed down his place of origin to the region around Benin city in Nigeria.

Ojo, who was arrested with 20 others in a series of immigration-linked raids across London last July, is also from Benin city. He had falsely claimed to be Mousa Kamara, 30, from Sierra Leone.

Detective Chief Inspector Will O’Reilly, who heads the investigation, said Ojo was not thought to have murdered Adam, but police wanted to interview him again about his links with a woman arrested in Scotland.

Children’s clothes found in her Glasgow flat came from the same German shop as the orange shorts on Adam’s torso. She also comes from Benin city, and she and Ojo lived at the same address in London for a time.

“We believe she is closely involved in the Adam case,” Mr O’Reilly said. “Her main associate in this country was Ojo. We also believe he assisted her entry into the country. I firmly believe he can assist us with our inquiries and we will be looking to speak to him as soon as possible.”

The woman has since been “repatriated” to Nigeria and Mr O’Reilly said he could not comment further on her as a file had been submitted to the Crown Prosecution Service.

When officers searched Ojo’s flat in London, they found a video of mock-up ritual killings and a rat’s skull, thought to be a voodoo talisman.

Southwark crown court heard that Ojo came to the UK in 1997, posing as an asylum seeker, and was granted leave to remain, but forbidden to travel abroad. But when he discovered his girlfriend, Barbara Bourne, had lost a newborn son a few years previously, he used the dead boy’s birth certificate to obtain a driving licence and passport.

He then brought in illegal immigrants on cheap flights from Naples. Police think those smuggled in may have paid up to 20,000 each for a new life in Britain.

Judge Neil Stewart said he was satisfied that Ojo had an organizational role and had profited from the enterprise, and recommended that he be sent back to Nigeria when he had served his sentence. 

Source: Jail for torso case people smuggler

Five witchcraft inquiries
Published: June 17, 2005
By: RELIGION NEWS BLOG

Police and social services in London are investigating five new suspected cases of child abuse involving witchcraft. 

Britain’s leading expert on witchcraft, Dr Richard Hoskins, is working with social services on allegations about fundamentalist churches in Haringey and Hackney.

They involve two boys aged 11 and 14 and three girls aged 10, 12 and 13. They were all allegedly abused after being accused by their family of being “witches”. 

A Metropolitan Police report, leaked yesterday, unmasked a “trade” in young African boys brought to London to be murdered as human sacrifices. 

An inquiry in which members of the African community in Newham and Hackney were questioned found a number of sects that believe in powerful spells requiring the ritual killing of male children.

It also identified cases of children abused and killed after family members accused them of being possessed by “evil spirits”.

Dr Hoskins, a chief adviser to the Met, said almost all the cases he is investigating have similar features. The children have been accused of being “possessed” and allegedly abused and tortured. 

Social services took them into their care after parents called for the children to be exorcised in fundamentalist churches. 

Dr Hoskins said: “We are dealing with real cases here. I have got seven cases on my books of children nationwide who have been abused in the name of witchcraft. When you actually talk to them, these are hard and fast facts. But the issue as a whole has to be dealt with very sensitively.” 

Dr Hoskins worked with police on the inquiry into “Adam“, the torso found in the Thames, which he is convinced was a ritual sacrifice. 

In the Adam case, detectives also spoke to Tussan le Mante, a voodoo priest or hougan, who carries out rituals in his west London flat. 

Le Mante was able to tell them accounts of child abuse of which he was aware through his connection with voodoo. 

Police also found children are being sold to traffickers on the streets of African cities such as Lagos, Nigeria, for under ?10 then smuggled into the UK.

They arrive in London with false documents and accompanied by adults who believe they will bolster their asylum claims. 

Dr Hoskins said: “We know this through work we have been doing on the Adam inquiry. It’s the same in Kinshasa. These children are ripe for people to abuse. They are easy prey.” 

The 10-month study was commissioned by the Met following the death of Victoria Climbié who was starved and beaten to death after relatives said she was possessed.

Its aim was to create an “open dialogue” with the African and Asian community in Newham and Hackney. In discussions with African community leaders, officers were told of examples of children being murdered because their parents or carers believed them to be evil. 

Earlier this month, Sita Kisanga, 35, was convicted at the Old Bailey of torturing an eight-year-old girl from Angola whom she accused of being a witch. Kisanga was a member of the Combat Spirituel church in Dalston. 

Many such churches, supported mainly by people from West Africa, sanction aggressive forms of exorcism. 

The caretaker of the building used by the church said its leader was “an extraordinary man”. 

“The pastor would come down after preaching with froth coming out of his mouth,” he said.

“The congregation made massive noise and generally caused so much disturbance that the neighbours here kicked up a fuss and got the council to evict them.” 

There are believed to be 300 similar churches in the UK, mostly in London. Last month, Scotland Yard revealed it had traced only two of 300 black boys reported missing from London schools in a three-month period. The true figure for missing children is feared to be several thousand a year.

Source: Five witchcraft inquiries

People from Angola, Congo-Kinshasa (DRC) and Nigeria implicated in the inquiries

The unsolved case of the torso in the Thames (2001) 2002-2003 articles – Part II

Witchcraft bean was fed to ‘Adam’ before his murder
Published: October 18, 2003 
By: RELIGION NEWS BLOG

The African boy whose dismembered torso was found in the Thames two years ago was fed a poisonous bean used in witchcraft rituals before he was murdered, police disclosed yesterday.

The unidentified boy, named Adam by Metropolitan Police detectives, is believed to have been the victim of a ritual killing after being brought from his native Nigeria to Britain.

A substance found in the boy’s lower intestine was identified by an expert at Kew Gardens in London as the highly toxic calabar bean, from West Africa.

Police believe a preparation of the calabar bean – which can be fatal if swallowed, or cause paralysis in tiny doses – may have been used to subdue the boy, by slow paralysis, before his throat was cut. It was administered at least 24 hours before his death.

It also emerged yesterday that the murder squad, which has spent hundreds of thousands of pounds investigating the boy’s death, has prepared its first file of evidence in the case for the Crown Prosecution Service.

Scotland Yard sources played down suggestions that charges were close but officers have uncovered what they believe is cogent circumstantial evidence.

They have previously arrested a woman in Glasgow – who has since returned to Nigeria – and a man being held by police in Dublin. The pair, who are husband and wife, are not biologically related to Adam, it is understood.

The man in Dublin has been sentenced in his absence in Germany for trafficking offences and is wanted for extradition by the Germans.

A pair of child’s shorts on the headless and limbless torso of Adam, who was probably aged between four and six, also came from Germany.

Charges which might be brought in any trial include murder, conspiracy to murder and trafficking offences.

It also emerged yesterday that the Government’s leading law officer, the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, QC, wants to lead the prosecution team in any trial arising from the Adam investigation.

Source: Witchcraft bean was fed to ‘Adam’ before his murder 


The groundbreaking hunt for Adam’s killers
Published: Monday August 4, 2003
By: RELIGION NEWS BLOG

Quoting: Sandro Contenta – Toronto Star (Canada), August 2, 2003
Link disappeared (webmaster FVDK)

DNA tests used to trace victim’s origin
Boy’s murder linked to child trafficking


LONDON�One more turn of the tide and the torso of the boy in the River Thames would have been swept out to the North Sea, the story of his chilling end buried perhaps forever in a watery grave.

But the alarm was sounded when the bright orange shorts hanging from the torso caught the eye of a passerby up high on Tower Bridge.

Police fished out what was left of Adam, the name they eventually gave the still unidentified boy, at the foot of the Globe Theatre on Sept. 21, 2001

Since then, the story pieced together of what police consider London’s first known ritual killing is macabre enough to have challenged even Shakespeare’s imagination. And the investigative work that has brought police close to cracking the case is groundbreaking.

It combined unprecedented forensic research with old-fashioned legwork that took investigators to Germany, the Netherlands, the U.S., South Africa, Nigeria, Scotland and Ireland.

The latest break in the investigation came Tuesday, when Metropolitan Police raided several homes in London and arrested 21 suspected members of a child trafficking ring.

“We’re pretty convinced that we are on to a group of individuals who trafficked Adam into the country,” said Detective Inspector William O’Reilly.

The arrests highlighted a UNICEF report the next day estimating that thousands of children have been smuggled into Britain during the past several years to be exploited as sex slaves, or for slave labour.

But public attention was especially focused on what police described as evidence of occult rituals found in the raided apartments, such as an animal skull with a nail driven through it.

Most of those arrested come from Benin City, Nigeria, an area where remarkable forensic sleuthing in the case has determined as Adam’s home.

 “I must stress we are not judging any cultures,” said Andy Baker, the police commander heading the investigation. “We are investigating a crime �the crime of murder.”

When the remains of Adam were found, investigators quickly figured out that his torso had been in the water for up to 10 days, that he was black, he was between four and eight years old, and murder ended his life.

It wasn’t the first limbless and headless torso 50-year-old Ray Fysh had seen in his forensic career. But it left him scratching his head.

Bodies are dismembered, he says, either to hide the victim’s identity, or to more easily transport and dispose of the body. But with Adam, no effort had been made to weigh down or conceal the torso once his killers dumped it in the Thames.

“In fact, he had orange shorts on, which made him stand out like a beacon,” Fysh says.

Even more puzzling was the conclusion that the shorts were placed on the torso after Adam was killed, because his legs could not have been hacked off with them on. The inside tag had washing instructions in German, and the brand was made exclusively in China for a German chain of stores.

“None of us knew, really, what we were dealing with at the time,” says Fysh, a scientist with Britain’s Forensic Science Service, and the forensic co-ordinator in the Adam case.

 “Nobody had come across this sort of stuff before,” he adds.

Fysh’s team began with basic forensic work. They mapped a profile of Adam’s DNA, to be used to identify his parents if they’re ever found. They covered his torso with tape in a bid to lift any hairs or fibres that might belong to the murderer, and came up blank. Swab tests found no evidence of sexual assault.

Toxicology tests found only one drug in Adam, a cough suppressant called Pholcodine, bought without a prescription at any pharmacy. Adam was treated for a cough shortly before he was killed.

“It wasn’t obvious then, but looking back on it now, it shows some sort of duty of care to this child,” Fysh says.

The way Adam’s limbs were cut off was brutally precise.

The killer either used a series of heavy, razor-sharp kitchen knives, or one that was sharpened throughout the dismemberment.

“They cut the skin, peeled the muscle back, and then cut through the bone. They never went through a joint,” Fysh says.

Dismemberment occurred when Adam was already dead. But the cause of death was no less horrible. He was slaughtered like an animal.

“The cause of death was a knife trauma to the neck,” Fysh says, choosing his words carefully. “The child then went into extensive blood loss.”

About six weeks after Adam’s torso was discovered, police searching the river for the rest of his body found seven half-burned candles wrapped inside a white cotton bedsheet. The name Adekoyejo Fola Adoye was written three times on the sheet, and cut into the candles.

But in the end, the candles and bedsheet turned out to have nothing to do with Adam. Detectives found that Adoye lived in New York, and his London-based parents had performed a ceremony with the Celestial Church of Christ to celebrate the fact that he had not been killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Centre.

Still, police suspected they were stumbling into an uncharted area of the macabre and supernatural, and turned for guidance to Richard Hoskins, a specialist in African religions at King’s College in London.

Europol estimates there have been at least nine cases of ritual killing across Europe in the past 15 years, and Hoskins believes more are bound to occur as immigration grows.

Every year, about 300 people are killed in South Africa for muti, a Zulu word for traditional medicine. Muti is usually a mixture of herbs, but in rare cases human body parts are used.

About the same number are killed yearly in parts of Nigeria in illegal human sacrifices where the victim’s blood is offered to gods, spirits or ancestors, Hoskins adds. Body parts might be kept powerful trophies or souvenirs.

Tribes that practise animal sacrifices consider the ritual killing of humans a terrible moral and legal crime �a taboo that makes those who break it feel all the more empowered, especially when children are the victims, Hoskins says.

“Because of the innocence and the purity of the child it becomes the most powerful form of magic that can be done.”

The cut in Adam’s neck led Hoskins to believe the ritual was more likely from the west of Africa than the south.

“It was done in a very specific and deliberate way, clearly to bleed him to death in a relatively quick way. The point was to spill blood on the ground as an offering,” he says.

Hoskins says the orange colour of Adam’s shorts, and the dumping of his torso in the river is also ritually significant. He believes the murder or murderers sacrificed Adam to gain some sort of power or good luck for an undertaking in Britain.

For police, Hoskins’ theories were horribly fascinating, but brought them no closer to identifying Adam or his killers. Finding out whatever they could about his short life became the focus of Fysh’s forensic team by January, 2002.

Adam’s stomach was empty. The last time he ate was 12 to 18 hours before his death.

In his lower intestine �an area rarely examined in forensic work �they found traces of pollen from a tree found in London, but not in Africa.

“So we know he was alive and breathing in London before he was killed,” Fysh says.

Also in his lower intestine were tiny clay pellets with specks of pure gold embedded on their surface, along with what appeared to be finely ground up bones. To determine the origin of the crushed bones, they were sent to the New York forensic team that conducted innovative work to identify victims of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Hoskins says the concoction in Adam’s stomach is typical of the potions used to prepare victims for ritual killings in sub-Sahara Africa. It’s part of a process that led to Adam getting cough medicine to ensure he was a healthy offering to the gods.

 “The case of Adam is definitely a ritualistic killing. There’s no doubt in my mind,” Hoskins says. “The remarkable thing is that he was brought from Africa to the U.K. specifically for the purpose.”

Hoskins didn’t believe Adam was the victim of a muti killing, but police weren’t ruling it out without hard evidence.

In April, 2002, detectives travelled to South Africa for a Johannesburg press conference where Nelson Mandela made a public appeal for information about Adam.

But in July, a break in the case would point to Hoskins’ theory.

Social workers in Glasgow had reported seeing strange items in the home of a 31-year-old West African asylum seeker. Police searched the flat and found objects they believed were associated with curses, including whisky jars filled with chicken feathers. More significant were the clothes found, which police believe were purchased in the same German shop were Adam’s orange shorts were likely bought.

The woman, Joyce Osagiede, was arrested and questioned about Adam’s murder. She was not charged, and was later deported to her Nigerian hometown, in the Benin City area.

At about the same time, Fysh’s team decided to try something never before attempted in forensic work.

They began by mapping Adam’s “mitochondrial DNA” (mtDNA), which is exclusively passed on from mothers to siblings. Children have the same mtDNA as their mother, who in turn has the same mtDNA as her mother, and so on.

They compared Adam’s mtDNA to 6,000 sequences published in scientific studies. Adam’s sequence had never been found among populations in southern African, or in people in eastern Africa. But it matched mtDNA found in the northwestern part of the continent.

To further narrow the search, the team called on the services of Ken Pye, a professor of soil geology at the University of London. The next series of tests were based on the maxim, “We are what we eat.”

There is a certain level of the mineral strontium that works its way through the food chain; from water, to earth, to plants, to animals, and, finally, into the bones of humans.

In other words, people walk around with a strontium signature that matches the one in their environment. And if a person moves from one country to another, it takes six to 10 years before the strontium signature in the bones changes to match the new habitat.

Given Adam’s likely age, his strontium signature would not only determine the place of his birth, but the place where he grew up. It matched the signature found in a zone of ancient, Precambrian rock, which in Africa is mostly predominant in Nigeria. Suddenly, the forensic evidence also began matching Hoskins’ academic research.

Fysh and detective O’Reilly travelled to Nigeria last November and spent 2�weeks collecting rocks, animal bones and vegetables from local markets in a 10,000 square kilometre area.

They also collected post-mortem human bones from three sites around the country, including Benin City.

They returned to London with 120 samples, and by the end of January matched the strontium signature in Adam’s bones to that found in a corridor stretching from Benin City to Ibaden, where villages of the Yoruba tribe dot the only main road along the way.

It was, in forensic terms, a eureka moment.

“From a torso floating in the Thames, we now think the child was born and raised in the Benin City area,” Fysh says.

Detectives have since gone to the area to post leaflets on trees about Adam’s murder, and to encourage local residents who might have information to come forward. They also publicized a reward of $110,000 for tips leading to the arrest of Adam’s killers and a $5,500 reward for information that will identify him.

The next big break came July 2, when Irish police arrested a 37-year-old Nigerian man in Dublin on an extradition warrant issued by German police. 

In March, 2001, Sam Onogigovie was sentenced in his absence to seven years in Germany, for forgery and crimes linked to the trafficking of people.

He’s believed to be the estranged husband of Osagiede, the woman arrested in Glasgow and deported to Benin City last year. Police are seeking a DNA test to determine whether he’s Adam’s father, but believe he was more likely involved in smuggling the boy to London.

“It’s a case we all dearly would like to solve,” Fysh says. “At the end of the day, it’s a murder of a very young boy in grotesque circumstances.

“We want to send a message out there we will not accept this in London. We accept people’s culture. But a murder we will not accept.”

Source: The groundbreaking hunt for Adam’s killers


Focus: Muti – The Story of Adam
Published: August 4, 2003
By: RELIGION NEWS BLOG

Quoting: Paul Vallely, Independent (England), Aug. 3, 2003
Link disappeared (webmaster FVDK)

The arrest of 21 people in connection with the discovery of a child’s mutilated body in the Thames points to a network of people traffickers and an underworld of abuse and domestic slavery. Paul Vallely, who has followed the case in the two years since the torso of the young African boy was found, says the evidence leads to the bloody ritual of muti, where the body parts of children are sacrificed in pursuit of spiritual power (Independent, England, August 3, 2003).

It was the body of a five-year-old African boy. The corpse had no head. The legs had been severed above the knee and the arms cut off at the shoulder. All that remained was a torso dressed – grotesquely – in a pair of orange shorts, which had been thrown into the Thames shortly before it was discovered in September 2001. Death had been from a violent trauma to the neck, and the limbs had been “skilfully” removed after death by an experienced butcher.

Yet it was not the gruesome details of the murder and dismemberment that last week – almost two years later – led 200 police officers to launch nine simultaneous dawn raids across London and arrest 21 people. It was the contents of the stomach of the child, whom the police – in an attempt to restore some humanity to the desecrated body – had named Adam. That, and the orange shorts in which the post-mortem showed he had been dressed after death.

Ironically, the clue that first put them on the trail to the arrests turned out to be a false lead. The body had been found by Tower Bridge. Initially, detectives wondered if the mutilation might be an attempt to disguise the identity of the victim of an accident, a family row or a sex crime. But then, two miles upstream in Chelsea, they found the remnants of an African ritual, with a Nigerian name written on a sheet, carved into seven half-burned candles. Might this be a ritual killing?

In the event, the Chelsea paraphernalia turned out to be unrelated. But before the police discovered that, they had sent to Johannesburg for Professor Hendrik Scholtz, a South African pathologist who is an expert in so-called muti killings – in which adherents of traditional African magic take human body parts and grind them down to make potions they believe bring good fortune to those who drink them. The professor came to England and, after a second post-mortem, confirmed the detectives’ fears. Muti had come to Britain.

The boy’s throat, he confirmed, had been cut and his blood drained from his body, probably for use in some ritual. Most significantly his first vertebra – the one between neck and spine – had been removed. This is known in Africa as the Atlas bone, for it is said to be the bone on which the mythical giant Atlas carried the world. In muti it is believed to be the centre of the body, where all nerve and blood vessels meet, and where all power is concentrated.

There was something else. Adam’s body was well-nourished and showed no signs of abuse, sexual or otherwise. Analysis of his stomach contents showed someone troubled to give him Pholcodine, a cough linctus, not long before he died. It was the classic muti scenario of an otherwise well-treated child being “volunteered” for sacrifice by his own family.

The police set out on two main lines of inquiry. The shorts – orange, they discovered, was a lucky colour in muti – carried the label Kids & Co, the brand-name for Woolworths in Germany. Detectives traced them to a batch of 820 pairs in size 116cm (age 5-7) that had been sold in 320 German stores. But then the trail went cold.

So, too, did a five-month trawl of London’s ethnic communities. Detectives came across plenty of rumours that muti ceremonies were taking place, but no evidence – and no sign of an identity for the murdered child. Painstaking checks of the attendance registers of 3,000 nurseries and primary schools found no missing five-year-old who tallied with what was known of Adam. When they sent forensic evidence to the United States for testing it came back with the verdict from the FBI that the case was “practically insoluble”. Even a public appeal by Nelson Mandela, broadcast across Africa, was fruitless.

But the dead child had not fallen totally silent. His DNA spoke up, as did the mineral levels in his bones. Analysts were able to establish that Adam had spent his life in a 100-mile corridor in the south-west of Nigeria, between Ibadan and Benin City. Revealingly, most of those arrested last week come from Benin.

The contents of his stomach were eloquent too. Forensic examination showed that the boy had been fed a muti potion of mixed bone, clay and gold.

There was something else. Analysis of pollen found in the boy’s stomach showed he had been alive when he came to London. It is thought he was brought across Northern Europe, possibly via Germany, and lived in Britain for a few weeks before his murder. “We’ve uncovered what we believe is a criminal network concentrating on people trafficking,” said Detective Inspector Will O’Reilly, who is leading the Adam inquiry. “We don’t know how many children are involved in this operation, but it’s certainly in the hundreds, if not the thousands, coming from mainland Africa through Europe into the UK.”

Lurid accounts of child trafficking have suggested the trade is primarily to provide recruits for the sex industry. But police believe that the majority of trafficked children are put to work 12 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, in what amounts to a modern form of slavery. Only a tiny number fall victim to muti.

Much of muti is innocent. The term derives from umu thi, the Zulu word for tree, which has become a byword for any traditional medicine, good or bad. Its everyday form consists of potions made from Africa’s indigenous herbs and plants to cure common ailments. It works. A pharmaceutical company has just signed a deal with the African National Healers Association to package some muti recipes. The South African Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has, with the aid of traditional healers, launched a “bio-prospecting” project to unlock the secrets of the nation’s 23,000 indigenous plants.

Most adherents stop with the plant recipes. But some believe that more complex complaints can be cured with animal parts such as crocodile fat, hawk wings, monkey heads or dried puff adders. Before the last World Cup qualifiers a hippo, lion, elephant and hyena were slaughtered to make a potion for the Swaziland team to give its footballers extra strength.

Muti becomes disturbing when it is extended to the notion that human body parts can be used to heal or bestow special powers. For muti is not just a medicine, it is a metaphysic. It asserts that there is only so much luck in the world and each person has a limited supply of it. Very young children have not yet used all their luck, which can be transferred to whoever takes the medicine derived from their remains. This is the origin of the widespread African myth that sex with a virgin can cure someone of Aids: the younger the girl, the more potent the “medicine”.

It is unclear how widespread human muti is in West Africa. But in South Africa, where the government set up a Commission of Inquiry into Witchcraft Violence and Ritual Murders after a spate of killings of boys aged between one and six in Soweto, it is estimated that at least 300 people have been murdered for their body parts in the past decade. The figure could be as high as 500 a year. (Italics added by the webmaster FVDK) 

The killings are rarely impulsive. They are done to order by sangomas, or witch doctors, commissioned by clients with a particular need. Thus human skulls are placed in the foundations of new buildings to bring good luck to the business. Body parts are buried on farms to secure big harvests, severed hands built into shop entrances to encourage customers. Human hands burnt to ash and mixed into a paste are seen as a cure for strokes. Blood “boosts” vitality; brains, political power and business success. Genitals, breasts and placentas are used for infertility and good luck, with the genitalia of young boys and virgin girls being especially highly prized. There is a belief that body parts taken from live victims are rendered more potent by their screams.

Discovering all this provided the police with another clue. The genitals of the torso in the Thames had not been removed, suggesting that his killers needed muti potions for some other purpose. Adam had been sacrificed for non-sexual reasons.

It was almost a year after the discovery of Adam’s body that the next piece of the jigsaw fell into place. A representative of the social services department in Glasgow contacted Scotland Yard and reported that one of their clients, a West African woman, had said she wanted to perform a ritual with her children. Her name was Joyce Osagiede. When police travelled to Scotland to arrest her they discovered among her daughter’s clothes a pair of orange shorts of the exact size and brand as had been found on Adam. They also discovered that she had been living in Germany – the only place the shorts had been on sale – before coming to Britain with her children. It was not enough to charge her. She later returned to Nigeria.

Then, earlier this month, police tracked down the woman’s estranged husband, Sam Onojhighovie. The 37-year-old Nigerian man had appeared at the High Court in Dublin as part of an ongoing attempt to extradite him to Germany, where he had been convicted in his absence and sentenced to seven years for offences linked to human trafficking. Scotland Yard officers visited him for questioning.

Of the 21 people arrested in the dawn raids last week 10 were illegal immigrants. None have been charged. Following the raids, Inspector O’Reilly said: “We are pretty confident we have a group of individuals who could have trafficked Adam into the country.” Police are investigating a variety of offences, including benefit fraud, selling false passports and credit card and banking swindles. So far they are still some way off piecing together the exact fate of the boy they know as Adam.

“In West Africa there are several reasons for human sacrifices – for power, money, or to protect a criminal enterprise,” said Inspector O’Reilly. “We believe the prime motive for the murder was to bring good fortune. We suspect Adam was killed to bring traffickers luck.”

Police are waiting for the results of tests to compare the DNA of Sam Onojhighovie – and everyone arrested last week – with Adam’s. If it shows that a terrible ritual murder was carried out to bring good fortune to an iniquitous scheme to traffic in human beings, there could be a grim final irony. The muti killing that was supposed to ensure the success of a criminal enterprise may actually have ensured its failure.

Source: Focus: Muti – The Story of Adam


Suspect responsible for death of 11 kids, wife tells police
Published: August 4, 2003
By: RELIGION NEWS BLOG
Quoting: Vanguard (Nigeria), Aug. 4, 2003
Link disappeared (webmaster FVDK)

LONDON – A Nigerian man questioned in connection with the suspected ritual murder of a boy whose torso was found in the River Thames nearly two years ago is responsible for the deaths of 11 children, his wife told British police, The Sunday Times reported yesterday.

Sam Onojhighovie, 37, was arrested July 2 in Dublin under a German extradition warrant for offences linked to human trafficking but has also been questioned in the Adam case, the nickname given to the boy found dead in September 2001.

His wife Joyce Osagiede told British immigration in November 2001 that she was escaping from a religious cult that had been active in her home country of Sierra Leone and in Nigeria, The Sunday Times said. She was later found to be from Nigeria.

Onojhighovie, who had been setting up branches of a new demonic cult in Germany and London, had killed 11 children, including the couples eldest daughter, she said according to the same source.

Police arrested 21 people Tuesday around London in connection with the Adam case. Those arrested were believed to be in their 20s and 30s and mostly Nigerians. They included 10 black men, nine black women and two white women, one of whom was nursing a baby.

Police have requested DNA tests from those arrested, believing one of them could be related to Adam. Adam�s limbless, headless remains were discovered floating in the River Thames near London�s famous Tower Bridge, triggering one of the most gruesome murder cases in the British capital in recent years. Police suspect the boy was the victim of a ritual killing after he was brought to Britain from the vicinity of the Southern Nigerian city of Benin.

Source: Suspect responsible for death of 11 kids, wife tells police


Arrests in ‘Adam’ torso case

Police raided nine homes across London (source: BBC)

Published: Tuesday July 29, 2003
By: RELIGION NEWS BLOG 
quoting: BBC, July 29, 2003, Arrests in ‘Adam’ torso ‘ case 

Police investigating the murder of a boy whose torso was found in the Thames have arrested 21 people in raids across London. 

Nine addresses in east and south-east London were searched by nearly 200 Metropolitan Police officers on Tuesday morning.

Ten men and eleven women were held by police. A baby belonging to one of the women was also taken into care while the woman was being questioned.

Among the items found was the skull of an animal which had a nail driven through it.

Commander Andy Baker, from the Metropolitan Police, said: “Some of the items would raise a few eyebrows – they look like some element of ritualism is involved.”

Most of those arrested were for immigration offences, identity fraud and passport forgery.

The police were acting on information from detectives who have been investigating why the limbless and headless body of a boy ended up in the Thames.

The victim, called Adam by officers, was found in the river near Tower Bridge in September 2001.

Police suspect that he was a victim of ritual killing after being brought over from Nigeria.

Officers travelled to the African country after forensic tests showed he was from the area around Benin City.

All of the people arrested on Tuesday are from the same part of Nigeria and police want to compare their DNA with Adam’s to see if any are related to him.

Police are also looking at their connection with a Nigerian man arrested in Dublin earlier this month in connection with the investigation.

Sam Onogigovie, 37, was held under an extradition warrant issued by police in Germany, where he has been convicted of crimes linked to human trafficking.

Detectives from Scotland Yard also questioned him about the murder of Adam.

Tuesday’s arrests were made by officers from Operation Maxim, the multi-agency unit tasked with targeting organised criminals who are in the UK illegally.

Detective Inspector Will O’Reilly, leading the Adam inquiry, said: “We’ve uncovered what we believe is a criminal network concentrating on people trafficking.

“We are convinced that we are on to a group, or individuals, that were involved in trafficking Adam into the country.”

Police also said there was evidence of children having been at the raided addresses.

Detectives think Adam was aged between four and six, and was alive when he arrived in London.

They are also trying to trace the witch doctor who brewed a potion containing bone fragments which the boy swallowed before he died.

The fragments have been submitted to New York’s medical examiner who will use techniques developed to identify September 11 victims.

“Interesting substances” found in the raids will also be compared with the potion found in Adam’s intestines.

Police think some of the items confiscated could be linked to rituals.

Source: Arrests in ‘Adam’ torso case


Human parts in bush meat
Published: Thursday November 7, 2002
By: RELIGION NEWS BLOG 
quoting : Western Daily News (England), Nov. 4, 2002 http://www.thisisbristol.com/ Link disappeared (webmaster FVDK).

Human flesh is being smuggled into Britain hidden in consignments of illegal bush meat, experts warned last night.

The horrifying twist to the bush meat trade was revealed with news of a raid on a London shop where it is believed human body parts were being sold.

Detectives investigating the murder of a five-year-old boy, whose torso was found in the Thames and whom officers believe was the victim of a West African ritual killing, joined a raid by environmental health officers.

There they found the first evidence of its kind linking the trade in bush meat to witchcraft ceremonies.

Officers seized items including a crocodile head, used in ritualistic dishes to “increase sexual stamina”.

Other packages of unidentifiable meat have been sent for DNA testing.

Experts say they are convinced human flesh is finding its way on to the streets as part of the illegal trade which deals in flesh from animals such as monkeys.

Clive Lawrence, Heathrow Airport’s meat transport director who joined detectives on the raid, last night said: “We have been told by moles protecting their own businesses that human flesh is being sold in this country. There is also an established trade in smuggling children, a lot disappear and no-one knows what happens to them.

“I think it is not just restricted to London, but to everywhere with high population density.”

Mr Lawrence said it was likely the trade had extended its deadly cargo to Bristol, adding he believed the murder of the Thames child – named Adam by detectives – was not a one-off.

He said underworld sources told him a human head will sell for �10,000. Flesh from a slaughtered child turned into African medicine or a “Muti” pendant, giving the wearer “incredible sexual power”, is said to cost about �5,000.

Detectives from Operation Swalcliffe investigating Adam’s death say he was smuggled in to Britain alive five days before being murdered.

They believe he was sacrificed in a ritual intended to bring good luck to his killers. In the past year police have discovered seven cases of West African religious rituals on the Thames.

Source:  Human parts in bush meat

The unsolved case of the torso in the Thames (2001) March 2019 article – Part I

The torso of a little boy was discovered near the Globe Theatre in 2001 
(Image: Daily Mirror)

Published: March 18, 2019 – Updated 12:56, March 21, 2019
By: Tilly Gambarotto MyLondon

In September 2001 the police found the torso of a young boy floating in the River Thames close to Southwark Bridge.

The little body, belonging to a boy between 4 and 7 years old, was spotted by a passer-by, who noticed him because of his bright orange shorts.

Police named him ‘Adam’.

Adam’s legs, arms and head had been expertly removed with extremely sharp knives as part of a suspected West African ritual sacrifice.

Poisoned and paralysed beforehand, his body had been drained of blood, and his intestines were found to contain a concoction of strange plant extracts.

It would be more than 10 years before the Metropolitan Police would find out the little boy’s real name, and the sorry story that led to his tragic death in London.

In the months after the discovery of Adam’s body, forensic teams traced the plant extracts back to West Africa, most likely Nigeria.

The boy’s body was found with no arms, legs or head (Image: Met Police)

To confuse things even more, his shorts could only have been bought in Germany or Austria.

Detectives travelled to West Africa to find out more about black magic, or ‘muti’, as it is called there.

‘Muti murders’ are committed for the purpose of using human body parts to make medicine or bring food luck, with the body parts of children or albinos considered particularly effective.

Police concluded the dark tradition of ‘muti’ had happened in their own city.

Several suspects were linked to the killing, with police uncovering what they believed to be a trafficking network bringing children from Africa to the UK.

Although there were arrests made for trafficking, the police were none the wiser about who had committed the horrific crime.

One woman, Joyce Osagiede, was arrested in Glasgow after a raid on her home led police to find a similar pair of orange shorts.

She was later deported to Nigeria and never charged with the murder. 

In 2005, Adam was buried in an unmarked grave in Southwark cemetery. Only those involved in the investigation were present.

The case had gone cold, and for years it was believed that the Thames torso would never be identified.

Joyce Osiagede falsely identified this boy as Adam in 2011 before correcting herself a year later (Image: ITV London Tonight)

In 2011, an ITV journalist tracked down Joyce Osagiede in Nigeria. She was suffering from very poor mental health, but was able to reveal that she had known the little boy, whose real name was Ikponmwosa.

The little 6-year-old had, she claimed, spent time living with her while she was in Germany. She had then passed the boy onto a man she called ‘Bawa’.

When Joyce travelled to London a month later, she was told that Ikponmwosa was dead.

Asked if the boy in a photograph she showed the journalist was Adam, she replied ‘yes’.

“They used him for a ritual in the water,” she said in the interview shown on ITV’s London Tonight.

Although it appeared to be a massive breakthrough in the case, police were reluctant to believe Joyce, who was heavily medicated at the time of the interview.

And their suspicions had been right. Just one year later, Joyce gave an interview with BBC, in which she called the boy Patrick Erhabor.

Her previous identification of him as Ikponmwosa had just been a “misunderstanding”, she said.

And the man she had passed him onto was actually Kingsley Ojo, who was arrested for trafficking in 2004 but never formally linked to the murder of Adam.Adam’s killer still walks free. And his origins are likely to remain a complete mystery.

BBC journalists traced the boy shown in the photograph to discover he was actually ‘Danny’, now an adult in Hamburg and the son of a former friend of Joyce’s.

Will O’Reilly, who led Adam’s inquiry, said: “In West Africa, there are several reasons for human sacrifices – for power, money, or to protect a criminal enterprise. We believe the prime motive for the murder was to bring good fortune. We suspect Adam was killed to bring traffickers luck.

“While the sacrifice hardly bought any luck to the ring, it did not overly harm those at the top either.”

Source: The unsolved case of the torso in the Thames that will keep you awake at night

Botswana: Ritual killers get jail sentences (2006)

Published: April 5, 2006
By: Oarabile Mosikare 

FRANCISTOWN: Acting High Court judge Modiri Letsididi sentenced two ritual killers to a total of 27 years imprisonment yesterday. The judge said Thuri Poicho and Njayi Kamuanga were under the influence of alcohol when they committed the murder. He said he had considered everything submitted on their behalf by their attorneys Charles Tlaagae and Muriro Furusa. 

“Both accused were influenced by immaturity and had pleaded guilty to the charge. That show contrition and remorse on their part,” said Letsididi.

He added that Poicho was a first offender and has no previous conviction. He noted that the accused persons have been in custody since August 2001 and the charge has been hanging on their heads ever since. The judge commented that the two have lost their previous employment as herdsmen as a result of the offence. He noted that the accused persons did not benefit from the ritual killing ordered by a certain Ntshemang. However, he said the court is duty bound to protect society and the sanctity of life. “This court should demonstrate to the society that such crimes should not be tolerated. Both accused persons participated in unprovoked assault of the deceased, cutting his private parts and tongue in order to gain. In my view, there is no worst crime than this,” said the soft-spoken judge. He noted that Kamuanga has a previous conviction for a crime committed two months before the ritual murder. Therefore, he sentenced him to 14 years and gave Poicho 13 years for the ritual killing of Aaron Phobe.

On Monday, state counsel Keneilwe Lephalo said one Ntshemang approached the convicts and showed them a lot of money if they gave him the private parts of a human being. He promised them P8 000 for the job. They then conspired to kill Phobe and get the organs. “They assaulted him with a knobkerrie on the head until he fell unconscious on the ground. They removed his tongue and genitals and then delivered them to Ntshemang who had packed his vehicle in the bush who promised to pay them P8,000 the next day,” she submitted.

The investigations led to the arrest of Poicho on August 14, 2001 at Nnyambesi cattlepost and Kamuanga at Satau cattlepost. “They were taken before a judicial officer Phetsolo Nare, where Kamuanga was the only one who deposed a confession statement. In so hitting the deceased with a knobkerrie, they intended to cause his death. They acted unlawfully and had no lawful justification for their conduct,” submitted Lephalo.

Immediately after the judge was satisfied that the accused’s plea was unequivocal, he asked the two defence attorneys whether there are any extenuating circumstances in the case. They adopted the same submission that P8,000 offered by Ntshemang was a fortune for their clients who are herdsmen and the amount had a bearing on their reasoning. In mitigation, Poicho’s attorney Tlaagae submitted that his client was unknown in criminal circles and the court should impose a sentence that would give him a chance to rehabilitate.

“He pleaded guilty, and acknowledged to the society that what he did was morally and legally wrong. He benefited nothing from P8,000 they were supposed to be paid and they never saw Ntshemang again,” submitted Tlaagae. He urged the court to impose a sentence that would not break the accused. Mitigating on behalf of Kamuanga, Furusa submitted that the court should take into consideration the personal circumstance of his client. He said Kamuanga confessed at the time of his arrest and thus saved valuable time for investigating officers and court. “He was incited by allegedly rich person to commit this crime. Ntshemang was never prosecuted and the accused has to bear punishment on behalf of Ntshemang,” said Furusa.

Source: Ritual killers get jail sentences

Gabon election raises fears of ritual killings (2008)

Published: April 16, 2008
Writing by Daniel Flynn; Editing by Clar NiChonghaile
Antoine Lawson
Reuters

A sorcerer performs a dance in front of a sacred fire in Bitouga, some 600 km from the Gabon capital Libreville, in this September 2007 photo. REUTERS/Antoine Lawson

LIBREVILLE (Reuters) – When the body of 13-year-old Ralph Edang N’na was found drained of blood and with gaping wounds in his genitals, chest and neck last month, many in Gabon thought it was politicians who had ordered his killing.

The murder of children and young adults, whose organs are eaten or used to make magical amulets, has increased in recent years in the oil-rich central African nation. Campaigners say some Gabonese politicians use the black magic rituals to boost their chances of winning lucrative government posts.

With elections to local municipal councils due on April 27, many fear a spate of gruesome child murders.

Every week, mutilated bodies are discovered in the capital Libreville, despite police patrols, and streets quickly empty after nightfall. Anxious parents are keeping a close watch around schools to prevent children from being snatched.

“It’s before elections and ministerial reshuffles that the vilest crimes are committed and the capital empties of certain kinds of politicians who go to the interior to carry out witchcraft,” said pastor Francois Bibang, a member of the Association to Fight Ritual Crimes (ALCR).

In ritual killings, which still take place in several African countries, people, often children, are killed to obtain body parts and blood in the belief they will bring social success and political power.

The ALCR says that in February alone there were 12 such killings in Gabon.

“Unfortunately, this practice seems to be spreading again in Gabon,” said Jean-Elvis Ebang Ondo, who founded ALCR after his 12-year-old son was kidnapped, killed and mutilated in 2005.

The government set up a National Observatory for the Rights of Children in November 2006 to implement the U.N. charter on children’s rights, enshrining the right to health, education and protection from abuse.

Gabon, with just 1.6 million people, is one of sub-Saharan Africa’s largest oil producers but most of its population continue to live in poverty, while members of a rich elite drive shiny new cars along Libreville’s sea front boulevard.

Omar Bongo, the world’s longest-serving president, has ruled the country since 1967 and used the oil funds to weave a web of patronage which has created bitter competition for lucrative political jobs.

Ondo condemned “the silence of the state” and called on residents to “fight off these assassins who sow terror in the heart of Gabonese society”.

After a penal code approved in January omitted any mention of ritual crimes, Ondo called on the government to find out how many people had been killed in this way.

“Spare parts”

But no clear figures exist for how many children and teenagers are slain in ritual killings in Gabon.

The head of an association against ritual crimes, Frederic Ntera Etoua, said 290 killings had occurred since 1986 in the thick jungles of the Ogooue-Ivindo province in the northeast, where Ralph Edang N’na was killed.

“There is a pyramid organization with politicians at its head who pursue the famous ‘spare parts’ then the recruiters who are middle men and then the suppliers and sellers who find the innocent victims,” said Bibang.

Parliamentary speaker Guy Nzouba Ndama opened the latest session of the assembly on March 3 by denouncing ritual crimes by politicians.

So far no politicians have been convicted for involvement in such crimes. An attempt to prosecute a legislator from the oil-rich region of Gamba last year failed after he claimed parliamentary immunity.

Philippe Ndong, a psychology teacher at Libreville university, traces the rise in ritual crimes to 2001.

“As legislative elections approached, mutilated bodies were discovered around the country,” said Ndong. “An 8-year-old girl was snatched in Ndolou department and killed in Mouila. The man allegedly responsible was a candidate to parliament who entered the government after this crime.”

Ndong cites other ritual murders. In 2002, a man in his 20s, Lucien Bigoundou, was killed in the Digoudou forest of central Gabon while on a hunting trip with companions who cut off his genitals and other parts of his body.

In March 2005, the bodies of two 12-year-old boys were washed up on a Libreville beach — one was Ebang Ondo’s son. A month later, six-year-old Warlys Igor Mboumba was found dead in a Libreville gutter, his body drained of blood.

In January 2006, the bodies of three children under four were discovered in the trunk of a car in a private yard.

And last April, two men suspected of sodomizing a 3-year-old boy and draining his blood in a ritual killing were lynched.

“It is up to the government to put a swift end to this impunity or risk seeing a rise in mob justice,” said pastor Emile Ngoua, a member of the ALCR.

Source: Gabon election raises fears of ritual killings
April 16, 2008