Death penalty for men who beheaded ‘witch’

Two men have been sentenced to death in Papua New Guinea after pleading guilty to wilfully murdering a woman accused of witchcraft by beheading her with a bushknife.

Sedoki Lota, 22, and Fred Abenko, 20, of Salakahadi village in Milne Bay Province have been ordered to be hanged by the neck until dead by Justice Mark Sevua in the National Court in Alotau.

The pair pleaded guilty to wilfully murdering Marcia Kedarossi on July 9, 2005, at Sigaroi village on Normanby Island, PNG’s Post-Courier newspaper reported today.


Witchcraft, or Wicca, is a form of neo-Paganism. It is officially recognized as a religion by the U.S. government.

This is a diverse movement that knows no central authority. Practitioners do not all have the same views, beliefs and practices.

While all witches are pagans, not all pagans are witches. Likewise, while all Wiccans are witches, not all witches are Wiccans.

Note: The Witchcraft news tracker includes news items about a wide variety of diverse movements reported in the media as ‘witchcraft.’ It also includes news articles on the plight of alleged witches.

The court was told the pair entered Kedarossi’s house, blindfolded her and tied her hands before chopping her head off for allegedly practising sorcery and causing the deaths of their fathers.

A de facto moratorium on the death penalty is in place in PNG with former justice minister Bire Kimisopa saying last year that a proposal to abolish it was before cabinet.

Defence counsel for Lota and Abenko told the court the death sentence should not be imposed and the court should consider his clients’ guilty pleas and their belief in sorcery.

But Justice Sevua said aggravating factors in the case outweighed mitigating factors and a serious penalty was warranted.

He noted the two accused had been ordered to kill Kedarossi by village magistrate Martin Mega who had promised to pay them.

Sevua said that amounted to a contract killing and he used his discretion to impose the death penalty despite prosecutors not requesting it.

“It is my view that the degree of criminal culpability and cruelty exhibited by the prisoners is so enormous that imposing a determinate term is inadequate and will not fit the crime,” he said.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday October 4, 2007.
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