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‘Magic’ drink kills five in Tegal

The Jakarta Post, Indonesia
Dec. 4, 2004
Nana Rukmana and Suherdjoko • Saturday December 4, 2004

Five Tegal residents died, including a husband and wife, and two others fell seriously ill on Friday after drinking a beverage prepared by a local shaman.

Police arrested Iskandar, who is suspected of giving the drink to the victims, which he asserted would bring fortune or divine power to people who drank it. The beverage was poisonous.

The tragic incident began on Wednesday evening when seven people, from various subdistricts in Tegal regency, Central Java province, gathered at the house of Rofi’i, a resident of Kupu subdistrict, Tegal regency.

The seven met with Iskandar in the house, who is a local spiritual guru and resident of Mendik subdistrict here.

In the meeting, the seven were requested to carry out various rituals and listen to the advice of Iskandar.

They were also requested to drink a beverage, which had been blessed by Iskandar. “The beverage had to be consumed on Thursday night (a sacred night for Javanese),” said First Insp. Sugeng, the chief of detectives at Tegal Regental Police station.

The people apparently heeded Iskandar’s advice and drank the beverage on Thursday night separately in their homes.

Sarmadi, 45, a resident in Pangabean subdistrict, Suparman, 40, a resident in Margasari subdistrict and Rohimah, 40, a resident of Pesarean subdistrict, were found dead in their beds with blood flowing out from their nose and mouth.

Rofi’i, 55 and Masturoh, 50, were found dead in the kitchen in their home in Kupu subdistrict.

Bariyah, 20, the daughter of the couple, said that she discovered her parents dead on Friday morning.

She said that she also found a glass of the beverage on a table in the kitchen.

Also found on the table were kemenyan (a type of incense) and a sheet of paper inscribed with an incantation in Arabic.

Bariyah said that her parents were fine the night before.

Warkinah, 44, from Mergasari subdistrict and Suharjo, 50, from Pesarean subdistrict survived, but were seriously ill.

“The two survived after being rushed to a local hospital,” said Sugeng on Friday.

A preliminary investigation has found that the seven people were members of a group that believed they could attain fortune and divine power.

“We are investigating the case more deeply,” said Sugeng.

Adj. Sr. Comr. Tri Nugroho, the chief of Tegal Regental Police, said on the same day that beverage had been sent to the police laboratory at Central Java Police station for analysis.

“We are waiting for the results from the police laboratory,” said Tri, as quoted by news portal.

The five victims had been buried, said Tri.

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