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Friday, 8 March, 2002, 10:21 GMT
Voodoo 'practised in UK'
Exhibits Officer DC Mark Ham holds up a sheet covered in mud stains and with a name written on it three times
A sheet from a ritual is now not linked to the death
Voodoo rituals - some involving children - are being carried out in the UK, an investigation by BBC Radio 4's Today programme has revealed.

Animal sacrifice is one of the rites carried out under the umbrella of the west African region.

Practitioners are advertising in ethnic minority newspapers, often offering traditional remedies for illnesses.

People will sacrifice anything, including humans

John Azah
Independent adviser
A Today reporter attended a ceremony where 30 people watched a ritual involving a young girl with a speech defect.

The girl was wrapped in a black sheet and chanted over by a group of men wearing white satin robes.

Based in a disused warehouse in east London, the sect was examined by police investigating the dismembered torso of a young boy found in the Thames.

A sheet and candles used in one of their ceremonies was found nearby, but police are now certain there is no link to the killing.

Head cut off

They still believe the killing may have been ritualistic but have yet to identify the boy.

The vice-chairman of the Metropolitan Police Independent Advisory Group, John Azah, said he had been brought in by police for a new perspective on the murder.

He told Today: "His head had been cut off in a particular way, his arms and his legs had also been cut off in a particular way

"We are talking about either witchcraft, ju-ju or voodoo.

We have got no evidence to say any human sacrifice has ever taken place in the UK

Detective Inspector Will O'Reilly
"A certain tribe or culture practise sacrifices, mainly animals, where animals are sacrificed in a particular way and then the blood is drunk to give them a certain strength, good health, to give them a certain potency.

"People will sacrifice anything, including humans.

"If people feel that human sacrifice is going to be more potent there is a view that the younger the child the stronger the medicine is."

He warned that attitudes towards foreign cultures in the UK left open the possibility unpleasant practices could be imported.

Cultural diversity

"In promoting cultural diversity we import the good and the bad," he said.

"If this is a ritual killing then unfortunately - as bad as it may sound - we have imported those aspects of culture into mainland Britain."

Detective Inspector Will O'Reilly, leading the investigation, said the police were "treading on new ground".

He said the intelligence gained in this case would not be lost, but fed back in if criminal offences are apparent.

"Other agencies within the police force will be interested in picking this up and bringing this forward," he said.

"We have got no evidence to say any human sacrifice has ever taken place in the UK."

The BBC's Angus Stickler
"The existence of voodoo in the UK is not hidden"

Click here to go to BBC London Online
See also:

08 Mar 02 | England
Tests to identify Thames torso
29 Jan 02 | England
Thames torso 'was human sacrifice'
25 Jan 02 | England
Ritual killing link to dead boy
21 Dec 01 | England
Torso murder reward offered
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