Branded a witch, a 10-year-old girl was tortured by her evangelical father

THE nonsensical belief that children can be possessed by evil supernatural forces is increasingly being spread in the UK by evangelical preachers with African backgrounds.

The problem was highlighted a year ago by a Channel 4 Dispatches team – and this week we were reminded of the devastating effects of child witchcraft belief when an evangelist church leader was jailed for eight-and-a-half years for torturing his 10-year-old daughter.

The man, who came to the UK from the Congo, kept the girl prisoner for four days with no food because he was convinced she was a witch.

According to this report, the twisted 39-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, dripped boiling hot plastic over his terrified daughter’s feet and beat her senseless after she became “possessed by evil spirits”.

The girl was held prisoner and force-fed olive oil and milk for four days after her father became convinced she had powers to make people fall asleep, Coventry Crown Court heard.

Interviewed by Dispatches, this woman said "church leaders are such strong people in our community"

Interviewed by Dispatches, this woman said "church leaders are such strong people in our community"

The preacher admitted child cruelty. His second wife, the girl’s step-mother, admitted wilful neglect of a child and was jailed for four years.

Sentencing the man, Judge Peter Ross told him:

Your daughter, in the last three to four weeks that she lived with you, was subjected to the most horrific torture. She did not even have a bed to sleep on. You bound her, you gagged her, you beat her, you whipped her and then kept her prisoner with no food.

It is hard to imagine any man, let alone a father, quite deliberately inflicting such calculated cruelty on a child. It is your beliefs which led you to believe she was possessed by evil spirits. These beliefs are frankly something an intelligent man would know were nonsense.

The court heard that the girl arrived in Britain from the Congo in May 2007 and moved to live with her father and step-mother in Coventry.

Sally Hancox, prosecuting, told the court the girl was subjected to daily beatings which included being hit with a piece of wood and whipped with computer cables.

She said:

The girl was singled out by her father. On one occasion he knelt down in front of her so he could trap her foot before putting a plastic bag in a candle and dripping the hot plastic onto her feet.

The court heard the girl’s hands were so badly burned after being held over a candle the blisters protruded two inches out from her palms.

On another occasion the man cut his daughter’s shoulder with a knife and smashed her head against a wall before standing on her face.

The court heard the girl was kept prisoner in her home on May 21 last year when she got into a fight at school with another pupil.

Her father locked her in her bedroom and forced her to drink olive oil and milk. She was not given food for four days and only allowed to go to the toilet twice.

Hancox said:

When the officer examined her room he found clothes and school bags sodden with urine. Obviously she had needed to relieve herself in her room but attempted to hide it.

The man sat impassively in the witness box and at points laughed when the crimes against his daughter was read out. He was ordered to serve half his sentence before he is let out on license.

According to the Metropolitan Police there have been almost 60 cases of child abuse related to witchcraft or possession reported to Scotland Yard between 2006 and 2008.

Dispatches reported last December:

Few [witchcraft cases] receive much publicity but perhaps the best known involved eight-year-old Victoria Climbie. Branded a witch by a local pastor in London in 2000, she was tortured to death by her guardians. More recently, the torture and abuse of ‘Child B’ who was accused of witchcraft in London in 2005, and the torture of two boys by their father in Bradford linked to a belief in witchcraft and possession highlight a growing problem.

It is not illegal to accuse a child of being a witch in the UK and members of the UK African community openly acknowledge the growing influence and powers of the pastors – that allegations of witchcraft are taking root here and something needs to be done.

One women interviewed for Dispatches said:

They’re brainwashing them with ideas that they can be witches or possessed with evil spirits. I think we’re finding it hard to see a way out because church leaders are such strong people and are people to look up to in our community.

Dispatches added:

Moreover, with films promoting the idea of child witches being openly sold on London street markets and more extreme Nigerian preachers looking to set up churches in Britain and elsewhere, the problem will only get worse.

Church leaders are such strong people in our community

Watch: video interviews on the growing UK problem

Hat Tip: Stuart W