by Richard Edwards
Crime Reporter, Evening Standard
Boys from Africa are being murdered as
human sacrifices in London churches. They are brought into the
capital to be offered up in rituals by fundamentalist Christian
sects, according to a shocking report by Scotland Yard. Followers
believe that powerful spells require the deaths of "unblemished"
male children. Police believe such boys are trafficked from cities
such as Kinshasa where they can be bought for a little as £10.
The report, leaked ahead of its publication next month, also cites
examples of African children being tortured and killed after being
identified as "witches" by church pastors. The 10-month study was
commissioned after the death of Victoria Climbié, who was
starved and beaten to death after they said she was possessed by the
The aim of the Met study was to create an "open dialogue" with the
African and Asian community in Newham and Hackney. In discussions
with African community leaders, officers were told of examples of
children being murdered because their parents or carers believe them
to be possessed by evil spirits. Earlier-this month Sita Kisanga,
35, was convicted at the Old Bailey of torturing an eight-year-old
girl from Angola she accused of being a witch.
Kisanga was a member of the Combat Spirituel church in Dalston.
Many such churches, supported mainly by people from West Africa,
sanction aggressive forms of exorcism on those thought to be
possessed. There are believed to be 300 such churches in the UK,
mostly in London.
The report was put together by an expert social worker and lawyer
for the Met after talking to hundreds of people in African
communities in a series of workshops. It uncovered allegations of
witchcraft spells, child trafficking and HIV-positive people who
believe that by having sex with a child they will be "cleansed".
An extract reads:
"People who are desperate will seek
out experts to cast spells for them.
"Members of the workshop stated that for a spell to be powerful
it required a sacrifice involving a male child unblemished by
circumcision. They allege that boy children are being trafficked
into the UK for this purpose."
"A number of pastors maintain that God speaks through
them and lets them know when someone is possessed. It is
therefore their duty to deliver the child or adult from the evil
spirit. After much debate they acknowledge that children labeled
as possessed are in danger of being beaten by their families.
"However, they would not accept they played a role in inciting
Last month Scotland Yard revealed
it had traced just two out of 300 black boys aged four to seven
reported missing from London schools in a three-month period. The
true figure for missing boys and girls is feared to be several
thousand a year. The scale of the problem emerged through the murder
inquiry following the discovery of a child's torso in the Thames in
September 2001. The identity of the victim, named Adam by police, is
not known but his background was traced to Nigeria. It is believed
he died in a ritual sacrifice.
John Azar, who helped the police on that inquiry, told
Radio4's Today programme that the known cases could be "the tip of
Police working on the Adam case have found children are being sold
to traffickers on the streets of major African cities for less than
£10 and then smuggled into the UK. The children arrive in London
armed with false documents and accompanied by adults who believe
they will bolster their asylum claims.
Dr Richard Hoskins, a lecturer of Theology and Religious
Studies at King's College, said:
"We know this through work we have
been doing on the Adam inquiry. These children are ripe for
people to abuse. They are easy prey."
A Met spokesman said:
"We undertook a project aimed at
improving our knowledge of issues impacting child abuse within
the African and Asian communities of London. The aim of the
project was to open a dialogue within these communities and
encourage a debate which would help reduce the risks of harm to
The report says there is a wide gulf
between these communities and social services and protection
agencies with many people in ethnic communities scared to speak out.
The report concludes police face a "wall of silence" when dealing
with such cases. Experts differ on the merits of the Scotland Yard
Dr William Les Henry, a lecturer in sociology at
Goldsmiths College, said aspects of the reports were
pigeonholing crimes together and were patronizing and racist.
"When we think about these cases we
can see the same kind of patterns of behavior in European
cultures but they are interpreted in completely different ways.
"This is one of the crises with social sciences anyway, when
they are supposedly interpreting the folk ways or cultural
habits of alien cultures." He said that the models such reports
are based on are that "Africans are less civilized, less
But Dr Hoskins said:
"This is very detailed, qualitative
report that actually comes out of the communities.
"This is not white people saying this. This has actually comes
from the communities authored by people in the community and
that really stymies the racist line." He added: "We are dealing
with real cases here. When you actually talk to them, these are
hard and fast facts.
"So I don't think we are getting wrong, but it is right to treat
He believes vulnerable people are being
manipulated by spiritual leaders.
"This is absolutely what is going
on. They are often very vulnerable, poor people. It is people in
positions of power and money that are manipulating poor people."