By SUE REID
PUBLISHED: 00:49, 16 August 2012 | UPDATED: 02:02, 16 August 2012
Horrific: After three days of torture, Kristy Bamu, pictured, was put in the bath and hosed down with cold water to get rid of the blood on his body. Horribly injured, he slid under the water as the bath filled up, and drowned
They appeared to be upright and decent members of our society. She dressed smartly, and had worked for Marks & Spencer.
He drove a top-of-the-range Mercedes and spent his spare time coaching a local women’s football team.
But unbeknown to their neighbours and friends, this couple living in their suburban London flat led a terrifying secret life.
They practised African black magic or voodoo, and on Christmas Day in 2010 they murdered a teenage boy in the belief he was a witch.
To rid the 15-year-old of his ‘demons’, the couple attacked him with knives, sticks, metal bars, a hammer, pliers and a chisel until he begged to die.
After three days of torture, Kristy Bamu was put in the bath and hosed down with cold water to get rid of the blood on his body. Horribly injured, he slid under the water as the bath filled up, and drowned.
Details of Kristy’s murder were revealed at a trial at London’s Old Bailey which ended earlier this year.
Football coach Eric Bikubi, 28, and his partner, Magalie Bamu, 29, Kristy’s sister, were each sentenced to life imprisonment for killing him at their eighth-floor apartment in Newham, East London.
The case was a shocking reminder of how witchcraft, with its roots in Africa, South Asia and the Caribbean, is now practised in the heart of our multicultural cities and towns.
Nine days before Kristy’s death, a mother disembowelled her four-year-old daughter to ‘exorcise evil spirits’ at her home in Hackney, London.
Shayma Ali strangled the child before stabbing her 40 times with a kitchen knife because she believed she was possessed by a spirit referred to in the Islamic holy book, the Koran.
She had removed the eyes from the little girl’s toys to stop them ‘seeing’ the child’s evil ways.
Last month, four family members were found guilty of murdering a pregnant 21-year-old woman whom they claimed was ‘possessed’ by ‘evil spirits’.
Guilty: Football coach Eric Bikubi, 28, left, and his partner, Magalie Bamu, 29, Kristy’s sister, right, were each sentenced to life imprisonment for killing him at their eighth-floor apartment in Newham
Mohammed Tauseef Mumtaz, 25, and his parents and brother-in-law were found guilty of killing his wife three years ago.
And just this week a Nigerian couple were sentenced to seven years in jail after abusing their children — who they believed to be possessed — for ten years.
Their crimes were only uncovered after their eldest daughter threw a note into the street outside her window, begging for help.
Police are investigating a tide of violent acts, often against children, by those who believe in witchcraft practices known as voodoo, kindoki, and juju. But a government minister has warned that political correctness is hampering their ability to prevent such atrocities.
Launching the National Action Plan to Tackle Child Abuse Linked to Faith or Belief, on Tuesday, Children’s Minister Tim Loughton said that there had been a ‘wall of silence’ around such abuse, adding: ‘It’s clear we need to make a stand.
‘There has been only very gradual progress in understanding the issues over the last few years — either because community leaders have been reluctant to challenge beliefs which risk leading to real abuse in their midst, or because authorities misunderstand the causes or are bowed by political correctness.’
Over the past decade, Scotland Yard has recorded 83 cases of children being tortured and abused in barbaric rituals linked to witchcraft.
Grim: This image shows floor tiles which were used in the murder of Kristy Bamu. The case was a shocking reminder of how witchcraft, with its roots in Africa, South Asia and the Caribbean, is now practised in the heart of our multicultural cities and towns
Such horrors are barely credible yet detectives fear they are only scraping the surface of this hidden and abhorrent crime wave. They have linked witchcraft to huge money-making operations in which parents pay wads of cash for ‘deliverance’ ceremonies to stop their children being witches.
Horrific exorcism videos promoting the vile practice are on sale in Britain and I was able to buy them myself. Scotland Yard is now so alarmed at the rise in witchcraft ceremonies that it has established a special unit to investigate the ritual abuse of children in the name of religion and culture.
But these detectives are being hampered by a culture that is endemic throughout the state apparatus and conspires to hide the true enormity of what is happening.
The modern-day creed that immigrant communities must be free to follow their own cultures and customs, without questions or criticism, has allowed witchcraft and various rituals to flourish.
In June, it emerged that social workers at Islington Council, North London, considered sending an African boy back to his native land, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), for an exorcism at the taxpayers’ expense because his mother claimed he was possessed by ‘kindoki’ or evil spirits and needed ‘deliverance’.
Astonishingly, the council paid Dr Richard Hoskins, an expert in African religion, £4,372 to travel to Kinshasa, the capital of the DRC, to investigate how and if the ceremony should take place, because social workers were worried the family’s ‘sensibilities might be affected’ if they didn’t obey the mother’s wishes.
Dr Hoskins met the grandparents in Kinsasha, who claimed the boy had been ‘infected by sorcery’ in Britain which would ‘destroy them all’. Church officials in the city also claimed that his evil spirits would lead to ‘strife, illness, divorce, hardship, poverty and death’ if not dealt with by the ritual. It would have involved depriving the boy of food and drink for three days to ‘cast out’ the bad spirits.
On his return, Dr Hoskins told Islington Council that the ceremony would leave the boy ‘disturbed and traumatised’. The extraordinary plan was dropped and the child is now in the care of the local authority.
However, as Dr Hoskins told a conference, the case highlights how ambivalent British officials can be towards tackling child abuse when it is committed under the guise of religious or cultural ceremonies and ‘masked by multiculturalism’.
Awful: This hammer was used in the killing of Kristy Bamu
At its heart, this abuse is rooted in the belief that a misfortune befalling a family can be blamed on their child being a witch.
The failure of an immigration appeal, a shortage of money, the loss of a job or an on-going housing problem have all been cited as reasons for a son or daughter being deemed to be ‘possessed by evil spirits’.
Even a misdemeanour such as bedwetting can put a child at risk of being labelled a witch — indeed, as we shall see, it was the fact that he wet himself that sealed Kristy Bamu’s terrible fate.
Likewise, girls from strict religious backgrounds who bring shame on their family honour by adopting Western attitudes have also been forced to undergo exorcism ceremonies where they are beaten and shouted at until they faint with terror.
Dr Hoskins, an academic who has studied witchcraft for 25 years, gave evidence at the Kristy Bamu murder tria, where he said: ‘Even among educated people in London, I’ve met those who believe in kindoki [as witchcraft is known in central and western Africa] and that it has powers.’
This first caught public attention with the death of eight-year-old Victoria Climbie more than a decade ago in 2000. Victoria was killed in London by her great-aunt and partner, who said the sweet little girl was a witch.
Mohammed Mumtaz, left, murdered his wife, Naila, right, because he believed she was ‘possessed by a djinn’
A year later the torso of a five-year-old Nigerian boy, named Adam by police, was found in the River Thames after he was sacrificed. Police believe he was smuggled into Britain and his body parts used in a ritual medical ceremony to save the life of someone in the migrant community who was dying of an incurable disease.
According to witch doctors, to kill a living person for medicinal purposes is the most empowering form of sacrifice and, the most potent form of all is to kill an innocent child.
In some forms of African witchcraft, heads and other body parts can be buried in front of homes to keep bad spirits at bay. A cup of human blood is said to boost vitality. A powdered concoction made from pieces of brain is believed to lead to riches.
Particularly prized are the genitalia of young boys and virgin girls. If these body parts are cut from a live child they are thought to add even more potency because of the victim’s screams.
That such practices take place overseas has long been known. But now they are happening here after being imported from other countries — and in truth they have been going on for years.
The headless torso of a black baby girl was found hidden in bushes in Epping Forest way back in 1969. Scotland Yard are now reinvestigating her murder and think it may have been the earliest case of a killing linked to African witchcraft on British soil.
Sinister: The issues surrounding witchcraft first caught public attention with the death of eight-year-old Victoria Climbie in 2000. Victoria was killed in London by her great-aunt and partner, who said the sweet little girl was a witch
The girl’s father, from north-west Africa, quickly became the chief suspect, but fled the country before he could be arrested and questioned. He is alleged to have cut off his daughter’s head, legs and arms during a ritual to bring him luck.
According to police and migrant advisory services, witchcraft ceremonies are spreading because of the increasing number of unregulated back street churches and mosques that have broken away from the mainstream places of worship to cater for millions of new immigrants from Africa, South Asia and the Caribbean countries, providing a link to their birth countries, cultures and customs.
Many of these horrific events are filmed and can be found on videos selling for a couple of pounds in ethnic shops and market stalls in London. What they show is terrified children, accused of witchcraft, being freed of ‘demons’. In one video I bought, a white-robed pastor is shown hitting a five-year-old boy with a long stick as the congregation chants approval.
His mother cries, but is held back from freeing her son because it is thought — by the prayergoers — to be the best thing for the family and their child. They are scenes which police believe are being repeated week after week in cities such as London, Birmingham, Leicester and Manchester.
But where do these cultural practices become blatant child cruelty punishable by the law?
Rachel Takens-Milne, from Trust For London, a charity that works to combat child abuse linked to witchcraft, says that cases such as that of Kristy Bamu are still rare.
But she added: ‘It doesn’t have to be at this extreme to be abuse. Calling a child a witch and publicly humiliating them is itself a form of abuse.’
And, worryingly, Detective Superintendent Terry Sharpe of Scotland Yard says that witchcraft-linked crime is ‘far more prevalent’ in this country than official figures suggest.
‘Children have been physically beaten and forced to drink unknown liquids in rituals to rid them of evil spirits. They have been starved and deprived of sleep.
‘Children have been blindfolded and had their hair cut off. They have had liquid poured on their genitals and been murdered,’ he said after the Kristy case.
Devastating: Victoria Climbie’s mother Berthe is pictured breaking down following her death
So what of this innocent boy’s killers, the couple who appeared to be pillars of their local community? At the time Eric Bikubi and Magalie Bamu were busy renovating their London flat and would talk on the stairways to neighbours who thought they were a perfectly ordinary and loving couple.
Five years earlier, Bikubi had even served as a community adviser on child protection issues in the London borough of Camden.
To his family and friends, he was a talkative man, mad about football, who had trials for Arsenal and claimed to have played alongside John Terry. As for Magalie, she tied back her long hair, dressed with some style and had loved her job at Marks & Spencer.
But behind closed doors, the couple could not have been more different from this presentable image. Bikubi, in fact, had a long history of petty fraud and a conviction for carrying a knife on the street.
He also had an obsession with sorcery, which he shared with Magalie. He told police his ‘battle against witchcraft’ began in earnest when he travelled to Britain to escape the civil war in his native Democratic Republic of Congo aged eight.
Brought up as a Jehovah’s Witness and baptised into the Roman Catholic Church, he was himself accused of being a witch as a child and cast out of his family. His belief in witchcraft was so deeply ingrained that once, when he was in prison awaiting trial, he picked a fight with another inmate and was found licking blood from the man’s injured face.
It was to this murderous man’s home that an unwitting Kristy Bamu and his siblings were sent by their parents from their family home in Paris for a few days over Christmas in 2010.
His sisters, aged 20 and 11, were beaten along with Kristy, but escaped further attacks after ‘confessing’ to being witches. Two other boy relatives, aged 13 and 22, were made to join in the torture.
A nervous teenager, Kritsy wet himself during the visit and suddenly he was accused by Bikubi and Magalie of being a witch and bringing voodoo in the couple’s home.
Bikubi forced Kristy to pray for deliverance for three days and nights without food and water.
The boy had a metal bar shoved in his mouth, he was struck in the face with a hammer and his teeth were knocked out. One of his brothers was forced to stand guard so he could not escape, while some of his siblings were made to mop up his blood.
He begged for forgiveness during his ordeal, and even confessed to being a witch to try to save his own life. All to no avail. When Kristy died he had more than 130 dreadful injuries on his body. His face was unrecognisable and pounded to a pulp.
Savagely killed by an evil couple in the name of witchcraft, it seems certain he will not be the last child to be maimed or die.