Man died after being tied up by family at London home in belief he was ‘possessed’, court hears

Family tried ‘resurrection’ after paramedics pronounced man dead at their home, court hears

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
Monday 04 February 2019 19:26
Kennedy Ife's parents and five brothers are on trial for manslaughter at the Old Bailey
Kennedy Ife's parents and five brothers are on trial for manslaughter at the Old Bailey

A mentally ill man died after his family tied him up for days in the belief he was “possessed”, a court has heard.

Kennedy Ife’s parents and five brothers are accused of manslaughter, false imprisonment and causing his death through a botched exorcism at their home in north London.

Opening their trial at the Old Bailey, prosecutors said the family restrained the 26-year-old marketing consultant with cable ties, rope and handcuffs for several days leading up to his death on 22 August 2016.

Prosecutor Tom Little QC told the court Mr Ife died because “his own family decided that because he had become and remained unwell, he should be restrained”.

“The 999 call that was eventually made for expert assistance was too late,” he said. “The family put misguided religious beliefs about this young man being possessed by a demon or evil spirits before the obvious and common sense conclusion that he needed help and did not need to be restrained.”

Mr Ife’s mother, Josephine Ife, 56, father Kenneth Ife, 64, and their sons Colin, 26, twins Daniel and Samuel, 20, Harry, 32, and Roy, 33, deny all charges.

The court heard the family held deep and unusual religious beliefs, described by one of the defendants as “charismatic Christians”.

When the victim showed signs of illness in August 2016, they allegedly believed he had become possessed and sought to “cure” his perceived illness through prayer and restraint.

“Whether this was some form of exorcism will be a matter for you in due course,” Mr Little said. “In short, the Ife family took the law into their own hands.”

The court heard a post-mortem examination revealed more than 60 injuries on Mr Ife’s body, including a possible bite.

A pathologist concluded a number of them were consistent with “forceful restraint”, while his father Kenneth and four brothers also had minor injuries.

Shortly after 9am on the day of Mr Ife’s death, his brother Harry dialled 999 and asked for an ambulance, reporting symptoms of dehydration.

Paramedics who arrived at the house were told Mr Ife had been behaving abnormally over three days, but the family made no mention of possession, the court heard.

The defendants allegedly said he had to be restrained after becoming “very agitated” and then developed breathing difficulties.

Paramedics attempted to lower Mr Ife’s body temperature and resuscitate him, but he was pronounced dead.

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Ambulance staff called police, who saw the family carry out an “attempted resurrection” over Mr Ife’s body.

The court heard that his brother Colin was heard saying: “Kennedy I commend you to rise in the name of Jesus.”

Colin told police his brother had become aggressive and spoke of the “mark of the beast 666 – god to forgive him”, while his mother, Josephine, told police her son had been “fighting amongst himself”.

A search uncovered a note on Ms Ife’s bed about the “bewitching” of offspring that said: “If you feel your son is under a spell pick up earth and throw it to north, south, east, west for four days. After there will be an encounter.”

Officers retrieved a bag containing black handcuffs, cable ties and wrist bands that appeared to have been thrown into a neighbouring garden in Lancaster Avenue.

The prosecution said it amounted to an “Ife family false imprisonment kit”, saying the presence of multiple packets of cable ties “reveals the intended duration of the false imprisonment going forward had Kennedy not died”.

In the days before his death, members of the Ife family had turned to religious figures for help, the court heard.

Uzoamaka Ndekwu, a minister at the Jesus Sanctuary Ministries, was called by Ms Ife and her son Colin.

The mother told the minister that her son had refused to see a GP and three ministers were asked to go to the family home to pray for him. The trial continues.

Additional reporting by PA