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) 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

Liberia: ritual killings, witch trials go unpunished (2015)

Nine cases of suspected ritualistic killing have been reported to the United Nations since 2012, but local media say there have been at least 10 related murders since this summer

Published: December 18, 2015 Updated 16:22 GMT
By: Reuters

Ritual killings, witch trials go unpunished in Liberia

DAKAR, Dec 18 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Liberia must tackle a widespread culture of impunity for perpetrators of ritual killings and trials of ordeal and put its human rights obligations before such traditional practices, the United Nations rights chief said on Friday.

Authorities are reluctant to investigate or prosecute such cases, fearful of a backlash from practitioners and politicians, while some state officials are even part of the secret societies that perform the practices, said a U.N. report.

Women, children, the elderly and the disabled are the main victims of harmful cultural practices, including female genital mutilation (FGM) and initiation into secret societies, it said.

“Criminal offences perpetrated through harmful traditional practices often go unpunished due to their perceived cultural dimensions,” said the joint report from the U.N. Mission in Liberia and Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

“This has generated a widespread culture of impunity among traditional actors,” it said.

Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf last month vowed to crack down on those responsible for a rise in ritual killings in the West African nation.

Nine cases of suspected ritualistic killing have been reported to the United Nations since 2012, but local media say there have been at least 10 related murders since this summer. (italics added by the webmaster FVDK).

They occur in some African nations due to a belief that body parts can work magic to obtain success or political power.

It is not yet clear why ritual killings are rising, but the report warned of an increase ahead of national elections in 2017, and some residents have speculated that presidential hopefuls are using black magic to boost their chances.

The report also documented the prevalence of FGM, widely performed by the women’s secret society Sande, and abductions, torture and gang-rapes carried out by the male society Poro.

Many women and children in Liberia are accused of witchcraft, and face “exorcism” rituals, trials by ordeal, expulsion or even death, according to the report.

The trials involve the accused being subjected to pain, such as poison or burning, to determine their innocence or guilt.

“Liberia’s human rights obligations must take precedence over any local practices considered to be ‘cultural’ or ‘traditional’ where such practices are incompatible with human rights,” said U.N. rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.

(Reporting By Kieran Guilbert, Editing by Ros Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit www.trust.org)

Source: Ritual killings, witch trials go unpunished in Liberia – U.N.

Liberia is located at the west cost of Africa

Two jailed in Gabon over gruesome occult sacrifice

As I stated earlier on this site (see my August 16, 2018 post), Gabon has a very bad reputation as ritual murders is concerned. Unlike in many other African countries, in Gabon there exists a very active grassroots organization fighting these ritualistic murders and the impunity that shields perpetrators and those who command these atrocious, criminal acts, from justice. The organization is called the Association for Fighting Ritualistic Crimes (ALCR). Its president, Jean-Elvis Ebang Ondo, recently said that his organization estimates that at least 50 ritualistic crimes, in a population of less than two million, occur each year. This means that on average every week a person is ritually murdered in this West African country.  More on the good work of the ALCR in upcoming posts. 

This week a positive report emerged. Two men were found guilty of a ritualistic crime committed in 2012 and sentenced to jail. One murderer received a life sentence, while his accomplice was will have to spend 12 years in prison. However, the ALCR in its reaction said that “the people who sponsored the murder have still not been arrested.” Read everything on this case in the article reproduced below. (webmaster FVDK)

Two jailed in Gabon over gruesome occult sacrifice

Published: January 11, 2019 – 20:54 GMT 
Updated: January, 12 2019 – 17:44 GMT
By: Daily Mail Co UK / AFP

Two men have been arrested and jailed in Gabon for gunning down another man and slicing off his tongue, fingers and toes in a gruesome occult sacrifice

A court in Gabon has jailed two men accused of sacrificing a man and cutting out his organs for black magic rituals, press reports and campaigners said Friday.

Henry Bengone B’Evouna received a life sentence for gunning down Achille Obiang Ndong, while his accomplice, Gerard Mba Eyime, was jailed for 12 years for slicing off the victim’s tongue, fingers and toes, l’Union newspaper said.

The sentences were passed on Tuesday by an appeals court in Oyem in the north of the west African country.

Bengone B’Evouna had struck a deal “with a former local dignitary to provide human organs in exchange for the sum of 800,000 CFA francs,” about $1,400 or 1,200 euros, l’Union reported.

Both men admitted guilt for the crime committed in 2012, it said.

An advocacy group, the Association for Fighting Ritualistic Crimes (ALCR), which said it was providing support for the victim’s family, said “the people who sponsored” the murder “have still not been arrested.”

In Gabon and other parts of West Africa, organs are used as fetishes in magic rituals, “and often are taken from people while they are still alive,” said the organisation’s president, Jean-Elvis Ebang Ondo.

“Often, there is no prosecution for crimes of ritual killings,” he said.

“Behind them, there’s a whole network of sponsors — politicians and powerful businessmen, marabouts [witch doctors], people called ‘nganga’ who act as spotters and often are schoolchildren or close relatives, and those who carry out the killing.”

Dread of kidnapping for organ removal is common.

Ebang Ondo said his organisation estimated that at least 50 ritualistic crimes, in a population of less than two million, occurred each year.

Source: Two jailed in Gabon over gruesome occult sacrifice

Related article: Two jailed in Gabon over gruesome occult sacrifice
Source: Brinkwire, dated January 13, 2019

Spirit Child: Ritual Killings in Ghana

Years ago, I drafted an article on infanticide in Benin for the present website on ritual killings in Africa. I never published it, because I hesitated. Thought it wasn’t ready yet. I may publish it one of these days.

This morning I ran into the article below on infanticide in Ghana – and Benin, Burkina Faso, Nigeria – and who knows in which other African countries this age-old practice occurs. The article is a follow-up to a 2013 investigative report of the same journalist and filmmaker, Anas Aremeyaw Anas. He fights a honorable battle against these murders, since we’re talking about the murdering of children.

Infanticide is an age-old horrible practice, but we’re living in the 21st c. and it’s absolutely necessary that governments take action in this respect. People are afraid to speak about infanticide, as Anas Aremeyaw Anas writes, since they fear the consequences of revealing a secret: death.

Witchcraft, the fear of witchcraft, superstition and ritual killings are closely related. Education can end this nexus. And economic development: jobs. It’s a fight against poverty and ignorance.

Moreover, people have the right to live without fear. It’s a human right.
(webmaster FVDK)

Spirit Child: Ritual Killings in Ghana

Published: June 3, 2018
Author: Anas Aremeyaw Anas
Published by Aljazeera

WARNING: both original articles (2018; 2013) include a film with graphic images that may be shocking.
Anas Aremeyaw Anas investigates the ritual killings of Ghanaian children deemed to be possessed by evil spirits.

Every year an unknown number of children – most of them disabled in some way – are murdered in northern Ghana because of the belief that they are in some way possessed by evil spirits set on bringing ill fortune to those around them.

The practice is the consequence of ancient traditions and customs and is shaped by poverty and ignorance in remote and often marginalised communities. No one knows the exact number of these ritual deaths across Ghana, Benin, Burkina Faso and parts of Nigeria, but some believe it could be in the thousands.

For years, NGOs and the Ghanaian authorities have tried advocacy and education in an attempt to eradicate the practice but with only marginal success. Well into the 21st century, Ghana’s so-called spirit children are still being killed because they carry the blame for the misfortunes of everyday life.

In 2013, award-winning Ghanaian investigative reporter Anas Aremeyaw Anas set out to track down and expose some of those responsible for the senseless killings – determined to bring them to justice and stop the practice.

Back then, he wrote: “When I first heard about this I could not believe it was happening in my country in the 21st century … The practice originally emerged as a way for poor families to deal with deformed or disabled children that they cannot look after. These families approach village elders known as concoction men and inform them that they suspect their child to be a so-called spirit child.

The concoction man then takes the father of the child to visit a soothsayer who confirms whether or not the child is truly evil, without ever actually laying eyes on them. Once this confirmation has been received, the concoction man brews a poisonous liquid from local roots and herbs and force-feeds it to the child, almost always resulting in death.

Over time, this practice has become a perceived solution to any problems a family might be having at the time of a child’s birth. By blaming the child for sickness in the family, or the father’s inability to find work or provide money to support his dependants, these communities have found an otherworldly explanation for their problems … But infanticide has always been a crime against humanity.”

Now, five years later, Anas, spoke to REWIND about why he doesn’t want to show his identity, the dangers of undercover journalism in Africa, and what has become of the concoction men that killed those children.

“Most African journalists who do investigations have a series of dangers pointing at them. You just have to be yourself and think about how to survive. I came up with the beads that I wear, so people don’t see my face. I’m sure that some of my colleagues, in Nigeria or Malawi have other ways to protect themselves,” Anas told Al Jazeera.

Talking about the threats facing investigative journalists, he said: “Generally, people definitely want to point guns at you or some will try to kidnap you. And most of these things have happened; getting death threats and legal suits is normal, most of my colleagues in the continent suffer that.”

“There is nothing more frustrating than doing a story on someone and then walking on the same streets with that person. It is even more dangerous and that can easily end the life of any journalist.”

“We don’t make stories so that people can just read them and smile in their bedrooms. We make stories that have impact on the society. For me, it is a good story when the bad guy is named, shamed and put in jail … Many people have gone to jail as a result of my work and I’m proud of it.”

Anas also talked about the concoction men that he met during his Spirit Child investigation.

“A legal process was started but they were too old, so at the time that the process could finish, some of them couldn’t even make it to court. But the key thing that happened in that story is that it told the community that whoever you are, when you attempt to do some of these things, you are going behind bars.”

“For the first time, those witch doctors were arrested and put before court. That sends a strong signal to all witch doctors to be careful, that when you are dealing with the life of a child it’s a completely different matter. And we can’t sit down for these children to be killed in the way they are being killed.”

Source: Al Jazeera, June 3, 2018

Related: Spirit Child
By Anas Aremeyaw Anas
Published: January 10, 2013

Every year an unknown number of children – most of them disabled in some way – are murdered in northern Ghana because of the belief that they are in some way possessed by evil spirits set on bringing ill fortune to those around them.

The practice is the consequence of ancient traditions and customs and is shaped by poverty and ignorance in remote and often marginalised communities. But it is still infanticide and no less horrifying than the killing of children anywhere. For years NGOs and the Ghanaian authorities have tried advocacy and education in an attempt to eradicate the practice but with only marginal success. Well into the 21st century, Ghana’s so-called spirit children are still being killed because they carry the blame for the misfortunes of everyday life.

Award-winning Ghanaian investigative reporter Anas Aremeyaw Anas is determined to do something to stop this senseless slaughter. In this shocking and remarkable film for People & Power he sets out to track down and identify some of those responsible and to bring them to justice.

Thousands of children have been killed in Ghana because the communities they are born into believe they are evil spirits. When I first heard about this I could not believe it was happening in my country in the 21st century.

The practice originally emerged as a way for poor families to deal with deformed or disabled children that they cannot look after. These families approach village elders known as concoction men and inform them that they suspect their child to be a so-called spirit child. The concoction man then takes the father of the child to visit a soothsayer who confirms whether or not the child is truly evil, without ever actually laying eyes on them.

Once this confirmation has been received, the concoction man brews a poisonous liquid from local roots and herbs and force-feeds it to the child, almost always resulting in death.

Over time, this practice has become a perceived solution to any problems a family might be having at the time of a child’s birth. By blaming the child for sickness in the family, or the father’s inability to find work or provide money to support his dependents, these communities have found an otherworldly explanation for their problems.

In this highly patriarchal society it enables heads of family to pass the blame for their struggles onto someone else. And by branding the child a spirit from outside the family, they can disassociate themselves and feel justified in murdering their own offspring, while telling those around them that now all will be well – the evil presence is gone.

But infanticide has always been a crime against humanity. I believe there is plenty of evidence of infanticide in the history of all human societies and its continued and widespread practice makes a mockery of the democratic credentials of the countries, including mine, where this crime still takes place. Many forms of civic engagement and advocacy have been used in a bid to eradicate this practice in Ghana and other West African nations. Sadly though, the limited efficacy of such techniques is illustrated by the fact that today children are still being killed in this way.

Ready to spill blood in the name of tradition

And sometimes a strong focus on understanding and education when dealing with traditional practices can distance us from the reality of a situation; it can place us in an ivory tower where we fail to engage with the true manner in which those involved are behaving. Far from acting like a man fulfilling a sad but necessary duty, the concoction man I hired to kill my fictitious child for the purposes of this film was excited; his eyes pinned wide with zeal as he went about preparing for the task at hand.

He laughed and joked about his previous experience, telling me about how he had recently killed a 12-year-old girl by tricking her into drinking his concoction and boasting about how effective his methods are. Without knowing the context, any casual observer would surely consider his disposition nothing short of murderous.

While I understand that he was misguided – ready to spill innocent blood in the name of tradition – I also strongly believe that, no matter what the circumstances, where children are being murdered the state must step in to punish those responsible in the same way that the citizens of any developed democracy would expect it to.

That is not to say that some understanding cannot be afforded to the concoction men and the communities that continue to practice these rituals. Unlike those with the benefit of technology who can see a badly developed fetus and terminate it before birth, the mothers whose babies are killed in northern Ghana have no such options.

They may find themselves giving birth to a child only to discover that it is not normal: it will never be accepted and will always be a burden on those around it. In the absence of technology or a refuge for mother and child to escape to, the concoction man is the only solution. As a result, the parents perceive him as a saviour; the only one who can deliver them from enduring further hardship. And the concoction men in turn thrive on the standing and power this affords them in the community.

When we think of slavery or the burning of alleged witches, these crimes against humanity were only eradicated when key actors in government decided to take a stand. By declaring these practices as unacceptable and threatening those who continue to perpetrate them with prosecution, governments have brought about the abolition of centuries-old traditions in a relatively short space of time.

Permitting evil to triumph over good

From northern Ghana, where the spirit child story is set, through Burkina Faso, Benin and parts of Nigeria, countless babies are killed based on age-old cultural beliefs. But despite this, we were unable to find any evidence of previous arrests for these crimes.

During the three weeks that I worked on this story, I came across 10 men who were willing to kill a baby for spiritual reasons. They were easy to find. Yet when I asked a senior police officer why no arrests have been made, his response was: “It is a very difficult thing to do. It’s unfortunate, we have no idea why this is happening, who is behind this and why they have not been arrested.”

My intention is not to suggest that one investigation or police arrest can stop this trend. But in many ways, the practice’s continued existence is a result of the impunity enjoyed by those involved. The fact that the police have never acted in any way to prevent these children being killed is surely a strong incentive for the concoction men to continue their business as usual. Invariably, this type of laisser-faire attitude is what permits evil to triumph over good.

Democracy has no value if it is only limited to occasional ceremonies for power holders. It is worthless if the voiceless are crushed and the perpetrators of atrocities are allowed to continue living their life without suffering any consequences. It certainly cannot exist where freedom and justice, selectively applied, mean that children are killed with impunity.