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Last Updated: Monday, 11 July 2005, 09:59 GMT 10:59 UK
Witch trial girl's 'mother' found
Sebastian Pinto (r) and Sita Kisanga
Pinto and Kisanga were jailed for aiding child cruelty
The BBC has found a woman in Angola who says she is the mother of "Child B", the eight-year-old abused because she was believed to be a possessed witch.

Last week, Sita Kisanga, her brother Sebastian Pinto and Child B's aunt were jailed on child cruelty charges.

During the trial in London, the jury was told the girl was an orphan.

But BBC Radio Four spoke to the woman claiming to be her mother in Angola's capital, Luanda. She said the family could not afford to have Child B back.

When living with her unnamed aunt and Kisanga in Hackney, East London, Child B was beaten, cut with a knife and had chilli peppers rubbed in her eyes.

This is my daughter - she left two years ago for a better life in England
Child B's "mother"

At one stage she was put in a laundry bag to be dumped in a canal - all because she was believed to be a witch possessed by an evil spirit called Kindoki.

Child B has been placed in foster care in the UK.

Radio Four Today programme reporter Angus Stickler travelled to Luanda to find her mother, as part of a wider investigation into belief systems being imported into Britain.

'Too poor'

He said the BBC was put in touch with the girl's family by the African community in London.

Using family photographs taken in London for verification, the woman in Luanda identified the child, saying it was her daughter.

"'This is my daughter - she left two years ago for a better life in England," she said.

The woman said that she wanted to resume contact with the child, but that the family were too poor to take her back.

She said she did believe children could be witches but not that her daughter was.

"No, she hasn't go it, I know my child does not have Kindoki."

The BBC has given the relevant authorities in Britain DNA samples from the woman, plus other additional background information.

Other cases?

The case of Child B has heightened concern that the belief in child possession is leading to the abuse of children within African communities in Britain.

Concern has been raised about the growing number of African churches in Britain who also endorse the view that children can be possessed and offer deliverance services to cast out evil spirits.

We can't actually be clear that we're safeguarding children properly unless we do open up conversations...
Beverley Hughes
Children's minister

Dr Richard Hoskins, who advises the Metropolitan Police on crime related to faiths, told the Today programme he was helping the police and social services on six or seven similar cases of alleged ritual abuse UK-wide.

But he said anecdotal evidence in the community suggested there were more and it was "crucial" that more research on the subject was done.

Dr Hoskins said it had never been traditional practice to abuse children in Africa and many Africans were "appalled".

He added: "There are awful situations of poverty and hardship and disease in parts of Africa, there are offshoots of that now in the UK in some of the communities concerned and that really is one of the parts of the wider context that I think needs to be investigated."

Government action

Children's Minister Beverley Hughes told the BBC programme action was being taken to address the issue of ritual abuse and establish the extent of it in Britain.

"We're convening a round-table discussion next week to bring together the Met, the social services, the Immigration Department and faith and community groups," she said.

"These are relatively new communities in this country, they're relatively closed already and we can't actually be clear that we're safeguarding children properly unless we do open up conversations..."

Ms Hughes said the Department of Immigration would also consider tightening processes to limit the migration of pastors involved in ritual abuse from Africa into the UK.

You can see Angus Stickler's full report on Newsnight on BBC2 at 2230 BST on Monday.


SEE ALSO:
Witchcraft torture three jailed
08 Jul 05 |  London


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