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Teenager 'murdered for practising witchcraft', court hears

  • @jerometaylor

A British Congolese couple tortured a teenage boy to death on Christmas Day because they believed he was practising witchcraft in a “staggering act of depravity and cruelty”, a court heard today.

The battered and lifeless body of Kristy Bamu, a 15-year-old boy from Paris, was found in a bathtub in an East London flat on 25 December 2010 after he was subjected to what prosecutors described as four days of “unimaginable physical torture”.

His older sister Magalie Bamu and her partner Eric Bikubi are standing trial for his murder and for assaulting two of his siblings.

At the start of their trial at the Old Bailey this morning, prosecutor Brian Altman QC said Bamu, 28, and Bikubi, 27, attacked Kristy and his siblings with an “armoury of weapons” which included metal bars, wooden planks, pliers and floor tiles. They were motivated, he said, by a belief in 'kindoki' – a highly prevalent superstition within the Congolese community that witches and evil spirits are able to possess a body and control others to do harm.

The trial heard how Kristy and four of his siblings were sent from Paris to London by their parents on 16th December to spend the Christmas holidays with his older sister. Although the first few days passed without incident, Bikubi became convinced that Kristy and his siblings were witches who were having a malign influence on a younger child in the house.

The court heard how Kristy soon became “the focus” of Bikubi's attention who - with the help of Magalie Bamu - began torturing the Kristy and beating his siblings in an attempt to force them to admit that they were sorcerers.

Mr Altman said Kristy died from a combination of being beaten and then drowned in a bath tub. When a post mortem was carried out on his body pathologists found 101 separate injuries.

“Rather than plead for his life,” Mr Altman said, “in the end he just gave up and begged to be allowed to die.”

Prosecutors also allege that Bikubi and Bamu forced some of Kristy's siblings to take part in his ritualistic torture. He said: "Wickedly, the defendants also recruited sibling against sibling as vehicles for their violence. The children had no option other than to do as they were told, or risk the same violence to themselves."

Paramedics were called to the flat shortly after noon on Christmas Day where they found Bikubi attempting chest compressions on Kristy. According to Mr Altman, one of the paramedics spoke French and asked the oldest sibling Kelly Bamu, 21, what had happened. The paramedic received “a tale of horror” as she pointed to a variety of bloodied weapons that had been used to torture them.

Bikubi denies murder but has pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility – a plea which has not been accepted by the Crown Prosecution Service. He has also pleaded guilty to the two assault charges. Bamu has pleaded not guilty to all charges. The trial is expected to last five weeks.