Rise in 'witchcraft' child abuse cases

Image source, PA
Image caption,
Victoria Climbie was murdered by her great aunt and her partner, who believed the girl was possessed

New guidance is being issued to social workers, healthcare staff and teachers on how to spot children at risk of abuse linked to witchcraft after a rise in cases reported to police.

The Metropolitan Police have received 27 allegations in the past year.

The figure is up from 24 in 2013 and police believe many more cases are kept hidden in families and communities.

Examples include children being dunked in a bath, swung around and smacked to "drive out the devil".

On Wednesday, police officers will meet teachers and others working with young people to discuss ways to tackle the issue.

A new training film will also be launched.

The number of cases of ritualistic or faith-based abuse of children reported to Scotland Yard has risen year-on-year over the past decade.

'Horrific crime'

There were 19 cases reported in 2012, and nine in 2011. Some 148 cases have been referred to the Metropolitan Police since 2004.

Det Supt Terry Sharpe said: "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."

Image source, Julia Quenzler
Image caption,
Eric Bikubi and Magalie Bamu were convicted of murdering Bamu's 15-year-old brother Kristy

He added: "Families or carers genuinely believe that the victim has been completely taken over by the devil or an evil spirit, which is often supported by someone who within the community has portrayed themselves as an authority on faith and belief.

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

'Hidden abuse'

High-profile cases include the murder of 15-year-old Kristy Bamu in east London.

He was tortured and drowned by his sister and her boyfriend on Christmas Day in 2010. They accused him of using witchcraft.

In another case, Victoria Climbie, aged eight, was beaten, burned with cigarettes and forced to sleep in a bin liner in a bath. She died in February 2000.

Her great-aunt Marie Therese Kouao and her boyfriend Carl Manning claimed she was possessed and were found guilty of her murder in 2001.

The same year, the torso of a young boy was found floating in the Thames. It is believed he may have been the victim of a ritual sacrifice.

Simon Bass from the Churches' Child Protection Advisory Service said: "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."