In a decision recently handed down in an Old Bailey court, Judge David Paget sentenced 29-year old Magalie Bamu and her 28-year old boyfriend Eric Bikubi to life imprisonent for the gruesome murder of Magalie's 15-year old brother Kristy in December 2010. The judge sentenced Magalie Bamu to a minimum of 25 years in prison while Bikubi would need to serve 30 years since a jury determined that he had instigated the abuse that led to Kristy's death.
Handing down his sentence, Judge Paget stated that the killing "surpassed belief". He added that: "I am aware of the controversy of the meaning of the word sadistic in this context. I am in no doubt that this murder involved a sadistic element. The intention was to rid Kristy Bamu of witchcraft. To do that both of you brutalized and physically abused him until eventually he died. It was prolonged torture. A belief in witchcraft, however genuine, can never excuse an assault on another person or the killing of another human being. I find it impossible not to conclude that there was an intention by you, Eric Bikubi, to kill. Perhaps not at first, but certainly at the end of the ordeal inflicted on Kristy. You, Magalie Bamu, must have realized that would happen. Why else say to your mother : 'If you do not collect the children, Eric will kill Kristy'""
Kristy Bamu and his two sisters were accused of witchcraft shortly after arriving from France to visit Magalie Bamu and Eric Bikubi in their east London apartment. According to testimony presented at the trial, Kristy and his sisters were subjected to days of sleep deprivation, starvation, and repeated attacks with metal bars, wooden sticks, a hammer, and pliers in what the prosecutor described as "a prolonged attack of unspeakable savagery and brutality". After days of abuse, Kristy Bamu reportedly confessed to being a sorceror to end the torture. The boy and his sisters were then forced into a bathtub and submerged in water. An autopsy showed that he died of drowning and the 101 injuries found on his body.
While belief in witchcraft remain common across much of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, incidents involving attacks on accused witches have been on the upswing in the U.K. with at least 83 cases of children being attacked for "sorcery" in London alone. Graphic cases of child witchcraft murder in the U.K. include Victoria Climbie, who was killed in 2000 by her guardians after accused of being a witch. The torso of a still-unidentified Nigerian boy was found in the Thames river in 2001 and is believed to be the victim of a ritual healing sacrifice. Forensic experts warn that Christian fundamentalist preachers in Britain have been fuelling the increasing belief in witchcraft. Dr. Richard Hoskins, a police adviser and university lecturer who has written extensively on accused child witches, warned that Christian extremists often target immigrant families by offering expensive "deliverance services" including exorcisms, fastings, and sacrifices to rid them of malicious "spirits" believed to be tormenting them.
While Kristy Bamu's murder and similar cases have sparked calls for police to crack down on violence against accused witches, the religious fervour driving anti-witch fear is not likely to go away anytime soon.