London – An African woman convicted in Britain of child cruelty involving a schoolgirl beaten with a high-heeled shoe, insisted the victim was a witch.
Sita Kisanga, 35, and her brother Sebastian Pinto were found guilty on Friday by London’s Old Bailey Court of aiding and abetting abuse committed by the eight-year-old’s aunt after the women became convinced the girl was involved in witchcraft.
“I know it is not easy for people to believe but those people with the spiritual belief will know what I’m saying is true,” Kisanga told the BBC in an interview aired on Saturday.
After their conviction, Kisanga and the girl’s aunt were warned by the judge they would face “a lengthy time in prison” when he passes sentence on July 8.
The case has raised fears that many children of African origin now living abroad may suffer similar abuse.
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In 2001, the headless and limbless torso of a Nigerian boy dubbed “Adam” by police was found floating in London’s River Thames after what detectives believe was a ritual killing.
The eight-year-old girl was born in Angola and brought to Britain in 2002 after her parents died. The court heard her aunt and Kisanga had stuffed the girl into a large laundry bag and had threatened to throw her into a London canal.
In video interviews, the girl told how she had been starved, cut with a knife, beaten and had pepper rubbed in her eyes to exorcise evil spirits.
Kisanga, who denied abusing the child and accused her of lying, said she had become aware of the cruelty when she saw the aunt beating the girl with a belt.
“She started to explain that the girl goes to Africa in the night time to do bad things,” she said.
“She was beating her like that because she believed in witchcraft – ‘kindoki’ – she really deeply believed it.
“In our community kindoki happens. It is killing people, it is doing bad things. In our community in the UK everyone believes in it.”
Asked if she believed the girl was a witch, Kisanga replied: “Yes, because she said so herself”.
Detective Superintendent Chris Bourlet said a team of officers were now working with communities in London, mainly African, to try to stamp out exorcisms on children.
“This new case has energised us into doing something about ritualistic abuse,” he said.