Police 'shocked to the core' by horror of torture chamber

Magalie and Eric spent three days trying to 'force the Devil' out of the three siblings

Shortly before noon on Christmas Day 2010, emergency-response workers received a telephone call from a distraught woman asking them to rush to her flat in Newham, east London.

"You must come," the woman sobbed. "My brother has drowned himself in the bath."

As the paramedics raced towards the 14-storey block of flats on Hathaway Crescent they might have been forgiven for thinking they were attending a tragic Christmas Day accident. But within minutes of their arrival they soon realised the scene in front of them was anything but that.

In the bathroom lay the lifeless body of 15-year-old Kristy Bamu. His older sister Magalie, the woman who had called the paramedics, and her boyfriend, Eric Bikubi, kept insisting that the teenager had drowned in the bath. But even a cursory glance showed that Kristy had been horrendously assaulted before he died.

His body, pathologists later found, had 130 separate injuries. Two of his teeth were missing and he was covered in lacerations. The bathroom floor and adjoining sitting room, meanwhile, were smeared with blood.

What the paramedics had actually stumbled upon was a torture chamber where a teenager was brutally murdered because his attackers believed he was a witch.

"I've seen a lot of things and like to think I'm hardened to most situations," one officer who was involved in the investigation told The Independent. "But what happened in that flat shocked me to the core. What those two did to that kid was horrific."

Kristy and his siblings had come to spend the Christmas holiday with Magalie and Eric. The first few days passed without incident. Magalie and Eric were in the middle of refurbishing their flat and they took the family out to buy building supplies and food. But on the third day, an argument began between Eric, Magalie and Kristy.

Speaking via a French interpreter, Kelly Bamu, 21, told jurors how Kristy had wet himself and tried to hide his underwear in the kitchen. When Eric and Magalie discovered what had happened they began to accuse him of being a witch. "That is what triggered everything," she said, staring intensely at her sister in the dock. "All over a pair of pants." Soon Kelly and her younger sister were also accused of being witches.

What followed over the next three days was a horrendous attempt by Magalie and Bikubi to "force the Devil" out of the three siblings. The rituals began with long bouts of praying and fasting but soon descended into awful violence as an array of weapons were used on the three hapless victims.

Magalie rarely looked up during her sister's evidence. Giving her own testimony, she argued that she was forced to take part in beatings by Bikubi, whom she described as "controlling" and sometimes violent. But in the end the jury decided that she was just as responsible for Kristy's murder as her boyfriend.

The court heard how Bikubi, a heavily built man, had previously accused a flatmate of being possessed by kindoki, a prevalent belief within Congolese culture that people can be overcome by evil spirits or practise malicious sorcery.

Only the neighbours gave any hint that something was amiss in the flat during the Christmas period. A number of them had complained that they could hear endless chanting and singing but when they tried to knock on the door they were either ignored or told that the family was praying.

Had the police been called, the outcome might have been very different. Instead, on Christmas Day morning, Bikubi and Magalie walked into the sitting room and ordered everyone to shower. Kristy, Kelly and the two younger siblings were pushed into the bath and hosed down. Kristy's battered body couldn't take any more. He slumped to the bottom of the bath and, unable to lift himself any further, drowned. It was only when he stopped moving that the violence against his two sisters finally came to an end.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn