A domineering football coach and his long-term girlfriend were found guilty today of torturing a teenage family member to death because they believed he was a witch.
Their conviction is the culmination of a sensational eight week trial that has thrown a dramatic spotlight on the belief within some immigrant communities that people can be possessed by evil spirits; and the horrendous violence that is sometimes meted out to those who are accused of sorcery.
After a week of tortuous jury deliberations at the Old Bailey, Eric Bikubu, 28, and his girlfriend Magalie Bamu were convicted of murdering 15-year-old Kristy Bamu at their east London flat on Christmas Day 2010.
Kristy, the younger brother of Magalie Bamu, was subjected to three days of horrific violence which included being attacked with planks, metal bars and pliers simply because his attackers were convinced that he was practising black magic. He finally died after being placed in a bathtub where he drowned.
A French national and keen footballer who lived with his parents in Paris, Kristy had travelled to London to spend the Christmas period with his 29-year-old sister Magalie. He was accompanied by his older brother Yves, his older sister Kelly and two younger siblings who cannot be named for legal reasons.
The visit began amicably but soon descended into an orgy of violence directed towards Kristy, Kelly and their younger sister after Bikubi became convinced that all three were practising kindoki – a Congolese term for sorcery.
All three were savagely beaten in an attempt to exorcise them of evil spirits but the worst of the violence was reserved for Kristy. His torture was so severe that pathologists later counted more than 100 separate injuries on his body. Two of his teeth had been knocked out and a chunk of his ear had been torn off by a pair of pliers.
Jury members wept as a statement was read out from Kristy's father Pierre Bamu. In it he lamented that his family had been robbed not just of a son, but also a daughter and a son-in-law following the murder.
“Kristy died in unimaginable circumstances at the hands of people who he loved and trusted,” Mr Bamu said. “People who we all loved and trusted. To know that Kristy's own sister, Magalie, did nothing to save Kristy makes the pain that much worse. We are still unaware of the full extent of the brutality - we cannot bring ourselves to hear it.”
In a remarkable showing of magnanimity, Mr Bamu said he must forgive his son’s killers for the sake of his family. “We will never forget, but to put our lives back into sync we must forgive,” he said.
Bikubi, a 28-year-old football coach with a history of accusing people of witchcraft, never denied killing Kristy. At the beginning of the eight week trial he pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility because of a “scizophrenia-like disorder”. However the jury decided that he was not insane at the time of Kristy's death and found him guilty of murder. He had also pleaded guilty to two counts of actual bodily harm. Magalie Bamu pleaded not guilty to murder and tried to argue that she had been made to take part in the beatings by Bikubi. She was found guilty to two counts of actual bodily harm but the jury were deadlocked over whether she was responsible for her younger brother's death. She was eventually convicted of murder after Judge David Paget QC said he would take a majority verdict from a jury that had deliberated for more than 26 hours.
Recognising the horrific nature of the trial and the harrowing evidence put in front of the court, Judge Paget excused the twelve jury members from ever having to sit on a case again should they wish not to.
“It’s been a most remarkable case and a times a most harrowing case,” he said.
Sentencing of the pair was adjourned until Monday.