The ritual emasculation and murder of 20 dirt-poor Brazilian boys in the past decade is finally raising alarms. After the latest victim of a suspected black magic cult was castrated and killed last week, Brazil's Justice Ministry pressed for a rigorous investigation in the state of Maranhão.
Authorities urged police to reopen sealed cases and solve the mystery of the dead boys, aged between 9 and 14, who came from slums around the north-eastern port of São Luis. In this former slave port, the Brazilian variant of voodoo, Macumba, has many practitioners.
Occult rites that involve sacrifice occur mainly between the months of September and December, and parents worry that the serial killers are still at large. Black ribbons and candle wax have been found near some of the mutilated bodies over the years.
Joisiane Gamba, a lawyer for a local children's defence group, said: "The signs are that this is not the work of a single criminal but of a group, and, at least in most of the cases, it could be a black magic cult."
The latest victim, Welson Frazao Serra, 13, took his catapult to hunt rodents on a derelict building site but never returned home for supper.
Police found his naked body face down, covered with palm fronds, close to two blood-streaked blades. The boy's catapult and a bundle of clothing were near by. The middle finger of his right hand and both testicles had been severed, according to Paolo Aguiar, a law enforcement officer.
Scientific tests found no sign of sexual assault. The only two suspects in the crime, a night watchman and a day labourer, were released by a judge for lack of evidence.
Shoddy state police work and lost files have made children's rights groups despair, and they petitioned the Organisation of American States to intervene in July.
Federal investigators will now give technical assistance in the murder inquiry, tighten security in the slums and compensate families who lost sons.
James Cavallaro, director of the Global Justice human rights group, said: "The investigation has been abysmal despite the gravity of the cases and the proof is we have 20 corpses and no convictions."
Because the boys' families lacked influence or money, the sons were considered expendable – not worth the effort to track down the killers.Reuse content