London

Witchcraft and ritual child abuse cases rise in London

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Media captionThe Met have reported a rise in abuses cases linked to witchcraft

The number of ritual child abuse cases linked to witchcraft being investigated in London is increasing.

A total of 24 cases were passed to the Metropolitan Police in 2013, 19 in 2012 and nine in 2011.

There have been 27 allegations in the past year, including two claims of rape.

Allegations included a child being swung around and smacked on the head "to drive out the devil" and youngsters being dunked in water.

A number of child killings have been linked to these beliefs, including the murder of Kristy Bamu, 15, who was tortured and drowned by his sister and her boyfriend in 2010; and the death of Victoria Climbie in 2000.

Since 2004, 148 cases have been referred to the Met.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Victoria Climbie was tortured to death partly because of witchcraft

Police officers are to meet a group including teachers, childcare staff and health workers at London's City Hall to discuss how to tackle the issue.

Det Supt Terry Sharpe, from the Met, said ritualistic abuse was "a hidden crime".

"Abuse linked to belief is a horrific crime which is condemned by people of all cultures, communities and faiths.

"A number of high-profile investigations brought the issue of ritual abuse and witchcraft into the headlines, but it is important that professionals are clear about the signs to look for."

He said some families genuinely believed the victim had been "taken over" by the devil or an "evil spirit".

"Regardless of the beliefs of the abusers, child abuse is child abuse," he said.

'Source of evil'

Richard Hoskings, an independent investigator of ritualistic crimes who is often called as an expert witness in witchcraft court cases, told BBC London 94.9 the cases mainly involved communities from Asia, as well as west and central Africa.

He said children were being used as scapegoats, adding: "Children are being accused of witchcraft and they're being accused of being the source of all the evil that's taking place."

Simon Bass from the Churches' Child Protection Advisory Service said: "We are not remotely surprised that the Metropolitan Police alone has already received 27 referrals of this type this year - or three a month.

"We are pleased that the Metropolitan Police has undertaken such great work in this area, but we are convinced that this form of abuse is hidden, and that the statutory agencies across the UK are facing similar situations."

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