Witchcraft Torture Couple Jailed For Life

Tom Parmenter, Sky News correspondent

A couple convicted of torturing and drowning a teenage boy they accused of being a witch have been jailed for life.

Kristy Bamu suffered 130 injuries over days of torture before he was finally drowned in a bath.

His sister Magalie, 29, has been given a minimum term of 25 years behind bars and her partner Eric Bikubi, 28, a minimum term of 30 years.

They were sentenced at the Old Bailey in London following their convictions last week for the murder.

Judge David Paget told the couple they were guilty of "prolonged torture involving mental and physical suffering being inflicted before death".

Kristy, 15, died in a flat in a Newham tower block in east London, on Christmas Day 2010.

He had travelled to London from Paris with his two brothers and two sisters to spend the holiday with Magalie.

But during the stay, Magalie and football coach Bikubi became convinced Kristy was a witch and began a four day "deliverance" ceremony.

Kristy was attacked with hammers, metal bars, pliers, ceramic tiles, a chisel and wooden poles in a bid to exorcise evil spirits.

His brothers and sisters were made to join in the torture and if they refused Bikubi forced light bulbs in their mouths and threatened them with knives.

None of the children were allowed to sleep or eat and were forced to join in chanting and prayers.

At one point, Bikubi told the youngsters to jump out of the window to see if they could fly, the court heard.

On Christmas Day, Bikubi put the children in the bath for ritual cleansing but Kristy was so weak after three days of abuse that he slipped under the water.

His sisters, aged 20 and 11, were also beaten but escaped further attacks after "confessing" to being witches.

Both Bikubi and the Bamu family hail originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo, where accusing children of witchcraft and then exorcising them is commonplace.

The practice is known as "kindoki" and during the trial, the jury was told it was the "driving force" behind the murder.

The judge accepted that Bikubi's mental damage may have made him more inclined to believe Kristy was a witch and a threat to a young child of the family.

But he added: "The belief in witchcraft, however genuine, cannot excuse an assault to another person, let alone the killing of another human being."

He told Magalie he did not accept her denial of belief in witchcraft and claim that she was forced to attack Kristy by Bikubi.

"It is only explicable if you shared Eric Bikubi's belief. It provides some explanation for what happened, but it does not excuse it," the judge said.

No separate sentence was passed for attacks on Kristy's sisters, although the judge said: "The ordeal they were subjected to almost passes belief."

Kristy's father Pierre said in a statement: "Kristy died in unimaginable circumstances at the hands of people he loved and trusted - people we all loved and trusted.

"I feel betrayed. To know that Kristy's own sister, Magalie, did nothing to save him makes the pain that much worse."

Scotland Yard has investigated 83 cases involving abuse resulting from ritualistic or faith-based beliefs and brought 17 prosecutions over the last 10 years.

Detective Superintendent Terry Sharpe said: "This is a hidden and under-reported crime and therefore difficult to deal with in terms of protecting potential victims from harm."

Save the Children's head of child protection Bill Bell said: "This case must serve as a wake-up call to governments and local authorities to do more to prevent this kind of terrible abuse from happening to children in future."