Twenty-seven persons were yesterday feared dead in Ozalla community in Owan West Local Government area of Edo State following the intake of a concoction allegedly administered on them during a witchcraft verification exercise by a herbalist hired by elders of the community.
But the State Police Commissioner of Police, Mr Paul Ochonu, has denied knowledge of the incident on the basis that the family of those involved have not made it known to them and are yet to receive a signal from the Divisional Officer in the area.
Vanguard gathered that the bodies of those who allegedly died after taking the concoction, mostly women and teenage girls, have since been deposited at the hospital for autopsy and determination of the components used for the preparation by the herbalist.
It was gathered that 24 hours after the intake of the concoction on a market day, the whole community was thrown into confusion as those that participated in the witchcraft verification exercise started dropping dead, while their families staged protests against the leaders for allowing the barbaric act.
Vanguard learnt that the herbalist was brought to the community on the prompting of a retired officer, who accused the women of causing havoc in the area with witchcraft and asked the herbalist to exorcise the spirit from the area. On the explanation of the officer, the elders of the community were alleged to have agreed to the exercise.
A community source told Vanguard that, “the herbalist arrived on a Thursday and the whole exercise started on a market day at the Onotare palace ground, where many of the victims confessed being witches, but those that denied being involved in witchcraft were made to drink the concoction. We were later shocked that a few days after the consumption, they started dying. There were 19 women involved and nine men.”
Contacted on telephone yesterday the State Commissioner of Police, Mr Paul Ochonu said the state command has no report like that on the deaths, but a senior police source at the Command told Vanguard that the incident was reported by some people but the command is awaiting full details, “we have received signals on the incident but we have no details.”