UK

'Witchcraft' Abuse Cases In London Are On The Rise

08/10/2014 10:05 BST | Updated 08/10/2014 10:59 BST

More cases of ritual child abuse linked to twisted beliefs in witchcraft in London are being reported to the police.

Scotland Yard received 27 allegations in the past year, including two claims of rape; a child being swung around and smacked in the head "to drive out the devil" and other youngsters being dunked in water.

A number of horrific child killings have been linked to these beliefs, including the murder of Kristy Bamu, 15, who was tortured and drowned by his sister and her boyfriend in 2010; and the death of Victoria Climbie.

The number of cases of ritualistic or faith-based abuse of children reported to Scotland Yard has increased year-on-year over the past decade.

kristy bamu

kristy bamu

Magalie Bamu (top left) and her boyfriend Eric Bikubi (top right) drowned Magalie's 15-year-old brother Kristy Bamu (bottom), after accusing him of witchcraft

A total of 24 were passed to the force in 2013; 19 in 2012 and nine in 2011. Since 2004, 148 cases have been referred to the Met.

Police officers will meet with a group including teachers, child care and health workers today at London's City Hall to discuss how to tackle the issue, which is rarely reported.

Detective Superintendent Terry Sharpe, from the Metropolitan Police, said it is "a hidden crime".

"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," he said.

"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."

A new training film will be launched at the event today.

Simon Bass from the Churches' Child Protection Advisory Service said: "We are not remotely surprised that the Metropolitan Police alone has already received 27 referrals of this type this year - or three a month.

"We are pleased that the Metropolitan Police has undertaken such great work in this area, but we are convinced that this form of abuse is hidden, and that the statutory agencies across the UK are facing similar situations."

Kristy Bamu's appalling death was one of a handful of chilling cases where an apparent belief in witchcraft has been linked to extreme violence against children.

The 15-year-old was tortured and savagely beaten before he drowned in a bath at his sister's flat in east London on Christmas Day 2010.

Magalie Bamu and her boyfriend Eric Bikubi became convinced that he was possessed by kindoki, or witchcraft, and was trying to harm or control another child of the family.

victoria climbie

Victoria Climbie died aged just eight after she was beaten and burned with cigarettes

Another case that sparked public revulsion was that of Victoria Climbie, who was beaten, burned with cigarettes and forced to sleep in a bin liner in a bath during her short life.

The eight-year-old's great aunt Marie Therese Kouao and her boyfriend Carl Manning both claimed that the little girl was possessed. They were found guilty of her murder in 2001.

Later that year, the torso of a young boy, named Adam by police, was found floating in the Thames. It is believed that he could have been the victim of a ritual sacrifice practised in parts of Africa.

In another case Child B, who was brought to the UK in 2002 after her parents were killed in Angola, was beaten, cut with a knife and had chilli peppers rubbed in her eyes to beat the ''devil'' out of her.

She was also stuffed into a zip-up laundry bag and told that she would be thrown into a river.

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In April, Theresa May faced calls to ban Helen Ukpabio, a Nigerian evangelist preacher who advocates exorcisms for children, from entering the UK.

She founded Liberty Foundation Gospel Ministries and describes common behaviour in toddlers - including screaming a certain at night - as evidence they are "servants of Satan".

Secular and humanist organisations wrote to the Home Secretary saying she should be barred.

"Whilst the government has moved swiftly to block entry to the UK for Islamic preachers whose presence is considered as harmful to the public good, there have been no cases of Christian pastors facing such measures," their letter said.

Bob Churchill, of the International Humanist and Ethical Union, said: “It is important that the UK authorities send a message to the world that branding children, or anyone, as a witch is beyond the pale.”