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Sunday, January 8, 2012
Murder suspect previously accused woman of witchcraft, court told
A man accused of murdering a teenage boy because he believed he was a sorcerer had previously accused another woman of witchcraft, a court has heard.
Eric Bikubi, 28, made the accusation against a 19-year-old woman who was living in his home in 2008, two and a half years before he allegedly tortured and drowned 15-year-old Kristy Bamu over Christmas in 2010, the Old Bailey was told.
Naomi Ilonga, was 19 when she and her boyfriend went to live with Bikubi and Magalie Bamu in their flat in Dagenham. It is claimed that Bikubi accused her of "having got witchcraft, because she would bite her nails".
"He told Magalie Bamu to throw anything away that Naomi had touched, including articles of clothing, pots, pans and plates, which Magalie did," said Brian Altman QC, prosecuting.
The pair stand accused of subjecting Kristy, the brother of Magalie Bamu, to "torture of quite brutal and savage proportions" while he was visiting them from his home in Paris with his four siblings over the Christmas holidays. They are also accused of abusing Kristy's two sisters, Kelly, 20, and an 11-year-old girl who cannot be named for legal reasons.
The court heard that Ilonga was accused of witchcraft by Bikubi at the end of her three-month stay. "In echoes of what befell the Bamu children two years later in December 2010, Bikubi did not allow them to eat for three days and told Naomi to pray," said Altman.
Bikubi prayed "to release Naomi's bad spiritual soul", before making her consent to cutting off her hair "to release the witchcraft", the court heard.
"The prosecution say that it was because of Bikubi's beliefs, which he shared with Magalie Bamu, that he set about depriving the children of food and sleep," said Altman. "It was those same beliefs that led to the beatings, which became increasingly cruel and increasingly inventive, and which were ultimately to cost Kristy his life."
He added: "However implausible you might find that proposition, they believed it, and these are beliefs that many intelligent people across the African continent in fact share."
Bikubi has pleaded not guilty to murder, but admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility, a defence that was dismissed by Altman. "He knew exactly what he was doing and fully intended what he achieved," he said.
Bamu, who denies murder and two counts of actual bodily harm against her two sisters, was Bikubi's "very willing accomplice", said Altman. "She not only encouraged him by her presence but also, more importantly, assisted and encouraged him by her words and actions to beat her own brother to death."
He told the jury that it was Bikubi and Bamu's deeply held belief in witchcraft, or kindoki, that led them to torture Kristy – using pliers, a chisel, a hammer and metal bars over four days – and ultimately kill him.
The child was found in the bathroom of their Forest Gate flat with 101 injuries including deep cuts and bruising about his body and face. Several of his teeth were missing.
The court earlier heard how Bikubi and Bamu, both originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, became fixated with the belief that Kristy was practising witchcraft, and subjected him to four days of "unimaginable" abuse.
The jury were shown pictures found at the scene, including a pair of blood-stained pliers, which Altman said had "certainly been used to cause those crushing injuries".
The handle and blade of a chisel, also found in the living room of the flat, were also "smeared in blood", he said.
"What Kristy and his siblings endured over the course of those days leading to Christmas Day was nothing short of torture of quite brutal and savage proportions," he said.
Adjourning the case until Monday, Judge David Paget QC told jurors that they had heard a "horrific story".
He said: "It is likely to arise emotions about what happened to Kristy, and possibly anger. But the only way you can try the case fairly is to put aside emotion and look at the case calmly and rationally."