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Last Updated: Friday, 3 June, 2005, 17:12 GMT 18:12 UK
'Witch' child cruelty trio guilty
Sita Kisanga wearing orange headscarf
Sita Kisanga was warned she faced a jail sentence
Three people have been convicted over the torture of an eight-year-old girl they thought was a witch.

The Old Bailey heard the orphan was beaten, cut and had chilli peppers rubbed in her eyes to "beat the devil out of her", in Hackney, east London.

The child's aunt was found guilty of child cruelty charges while Sita Kisanga and her brother Sebastian Pinto were convicted of aiding and abetting.

The trio, all from London, have been warned they face jail sentences.

Beating ordeal

The girl's aunt, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was convicted of four charges of child cruelty, while Kisanga, 35, of Hackney, east London, was found guilty of three charges of aiding and abetting child cruelty.

Pinto, 33, of Stoke Newington, north London, was found guilty of one charge of aiding and abetting.

Spirit possession is also a common feature of African traditional religion and there is a belief that they can fly or mutate into other creatures
Dr Richard Hoskins

The two women were found not guilty of conspiracy to murder. The three were remanded in custody and were told by Judge Christopher Moss that they faced jail sentences.

The women were warned their terms were likely to be "lengthy".

The cruelty started at the beginning of 2003 when a boy told his mother that the girl had been practising witchcraft.

It was an accusation the woman believed.

Jurors were told that the child was cut with a knife and beaten with a belt and shoe to "beat the devil out of her" during her ordeal at a flat in Hackney, east London.

During police interviews, the girl said Kisanga had cornered her in the kitchen and told her "today you die".

The court also heard the girl, now 10, was put into a laundry bag and believed she would be "thrown away" into a river.

Patricia May, prosecuting, said: "This child was treated as a scapegoat by family members, tormented, subjected to all sorts of assaults which must have caused her considerable pain, fear and distress."

'Distressing case'

The orphan was brought to Britain from Angola in 2002 by her 38-year-old aunt after her parents died.

Det Supt Chris Bourlet, head of the Metropolitan Child Abuse Command, said: "This was a distressing case involving a vulnerable child who suffered at the hands of adults who should have cared for and protected her."

Mary Marsh, director of the NSPCC, called the case "horrific", saying it had "exposed beliefs held by some in the African community that can lead to child abuse".

Hackney Council said it was "pleased that this distressing case had been successfully resolved".

The City and Hackney Safeguarding Board is to undertake an independent review which will look at the involvement of all agencies in the case.

How the eight-year-old girl came close to death


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