London – A 10-year-old girl who says she was starved, beaten, cut and almost drowned in the River Thames because her aunt and three friends believed she was a witch brought their trial to a halt on Thursday when she broke down in tears.
The girl, who cannot be identified because of her age, was seated in another room but could be heard sobbing soon after jurors began watching a video of her being interviewed by police in 2003.
Judge Christopher Moss ordered officials to stop the video and sever the video link between the Old Bailey courtroom and the nearby room where the girl was watching proceedings. He adjourned the hearing until she had calmed down.
The girl’s 39-year-old aunt and Sita Kisanga, 35, of Hackney in east London, both deny charges of conspiracy to murder and child cruelty.
Kisanga’s brother, Sebastian Pinto, 33, and his girlfriend, Kiwonde Kiese, 21, both of Stoke Newington in north London, deny aiding and abetting child cruelty between August 2002 and November 2003.
Prosecutor Patricia May told the court that the aunt brought the girl to Britain from Angola in 2002 and passed her off as her daughter. To protect the girl, the aunt has not been identified.
The witchcraft claims began when the girl was eight and she and her aunt were living with Kisanga, May said. Kisanga’s eight-year-old son began to complain that the girl was using witchcraft, going out at night and cursing people.
A note found in Kisanga’s diary read: “There was indeed a prophecy that (the girl) had ndoki,” the word for witchcraft in Lingala, a language spoken in Angola.
The accused made a plan to put her in a laundry bag and drown her in the New River
The girl was beaten, starved, cut with a knife and had chili peppers rubbed in her eyes, May added.
The accused made a plan to put her in a laundry bag and drown her in the New River, a canal in north London. But, after forcing her into the bag at knifepoint, they abandoned the plan when Pinto pointed out that they could go to jail for killing her.
On November 24, 2003, two street wardens found the girl sitting outside the apartment block where she lived. She was partly clothed and had facial injuries.
The case has evoked memories of the discovery in 2001 of a boy’s torso floating in the River Thames in London.
The body, dressed in orange shorts, had been in the water for up to 10 days and was believed by African experts to have been the victim of a ritual sacrifice.
London detectives, who have nicknamed the boy Adam, believe his family may have come from Nigeria. Forensic scientists narrowed the origin of the boy to a corridor of territory between Benin City and Ibadan in the country’s south-west.
They said he appeared to have been fed a potion of bone fragments, quartz, clay pellets and very small samples of rough gold.