Police investigating 30 cases of suspected child abuse involving black magic

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The shocking ordeal of the eight-year-old victim has exposed the growing numbers of children who are accused of "witchcraft" and secretly tortured in their homes across Britain.

The shocking ordeal of the eight-year-old victim has exposed the growing numbers of children who are accused of "witchcraft" and secretly tortured in their homes across Britain.

Experts are currently dealing with a rising number of cases in which young children are accused of bringing witchcraft into the home, while some endure exorcisms in which they are starved and beaten.

This case has prompted Scotland Yard to set up an initiative codenamed Project Violet, to discover the extent of the problem in African communities across London where children may have been mistreated in the name of black magic. Police said they are currently investigating 30 such cases.

Deliverance videos, which encourage aggressive exorcisms of children at home, can be bought in Britain, in areas of London such as Dalston and Brixton.

Dr Richard Hoskins, an expert in African religions at King's College London, helped to investigate this case, as well as the murder case of the "Thames torso", found in September 2001.

The four-year-old boy, who police referred to as Adam, is believed to have been the victim of a muti ritual killing practised in west Africa. He had been made to eat rock, bone and pieces of gold before he died.

Dr Hoskins said he was investigating five such cases in the UK with social services. "There is cause to get worried. This is the tip of the iceberg. It is not the first case of its kind in the UK. I have a handful of other cases which are almost identical in children being accused of witchcraft and, in some cases, parents want exorcisms," he said.

He has looked into similar cases across Congo and west Africa and believes children are often accused of witchcraft by families too poor to feed them, so they are "scapegoated" and thrown on to the street.

He said the belief that children were infected by witchcraft was one that was increasing among Africans, even in Britain.

"In the last five years, the belief that children can be possessed has taken off. The idea is that the children are infected by witchcraft after taking a piece of infected bread or peanuts. It stays inside the child until they are delivered of it. The deliverance process is quite traumatic.

"The exorcisms are usually confrontational, much more aggressive and often involve physical contact," Dr Hoskins said.

Children being exorcised were often forced to fast for three days, echoing the eight-year-old victim's ordeal when she was only given tea to drink in the morning and dry bread to eat, he added.

He said a belief in witchcraft in children was particularly relevant to followers of fundamentalist Christianity, and that some Christian fundamentalist churches condoned the violent forms of exorcism.

"There's a culpability from some of the churches, they do influence people and have some part to play in this. I think one of the things that should be looked at is whether these churches should be registered. Some of these churches go hand in glove with witchcraft."

Dr Hoskins added that children were accused of witchcraft especially if there was disease or disharmony in the home, although police were not aware of any illnesses in Kisanga's household.

Dr Hoskins said that although belief in witchcraft - known in Angola as ndoki - was centuries old, cures did not traditionally involve violence.

"In Africa, the traditional way of getting rid of ndoki would be to get a witchdoctor to prepare a curative medicine that would deal with the problem. They can't use the defence that this is their culture. No right-minded African would abuse their child in this way," he added.

Dr Hoskins said Combat Spirituale, the church which Kisanga and her son attended in Dalston, also existed in Congo, and believed it "comes from a fundamentalist wing of Christianity", although the police said the church in Dalston was not involved in this case.

"Fundamentalist Christianity has fuelled a rise in splinter churches which have mushroomed in Africa, who teach that children can be possessed and require exorcism," he explained.

Police investigations teams stressed that it was not their role to challenge people's religious beliefs.

But the concept of black magic in children could not be used to condone child abuse, said Detective Inspector Brian Mather, head of Hackney child abuse investigation team. "Ultimately, it is child abuse. Whether these people use witchcraft as an excuse or whether they genuinely believe it," he said.