A Congolese couple were found guilty in a British court on Thursday of murdering a 15-year-old boy they had accused of being a witch, by severely beating him and then letting him drown in the bath.
Eric Bikubi, 28, and Magalie Bamu, 29, both originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, had denied killing Bamu’s 15-year-old brother Kristy on Dec. 25, 2010, at their home in east London.
Kristy had 130 separate injuries when he died after being tortured by his sister and her boyfriend during an exorcism, the Old Bailey in London heard.
The teenager and four of his siblings had come from their home in Paris to stay with the couple in London over the Christmas period.
Bikubi had beaten all the children after accusing them of bringing kindoki — or voodoo — into his home, but he reserved particular violence for Kristy, subjecting him to three days of attacks with knives, metal bars and a hammer.
The teenager had his teeth knocked out, ceramic floor tiles and bottles were smashed on his head and a pair of pliers was used to twist his ear.
He was in such pain that he “begged to die,” the jury heard.
When he was put in the bath by Bikubi, “he was just too badly injured and exhausted to resist or to keep his head above the water,” prosecuting lawyer Brian Altman said.
Describing a “prolonged attack of unspeakable savagery and brutality,” Altman said: “Kristy was killed in the name of witchcraft. It is hard to believe in this day and age anyone can believe someone was practicing witchcraft.”
Richard Hoskins, an expert witness who has studied kindoki for 25 years, told the trial that belief in it is “extremely widespread” among Congolese people, including those in Britain.
“Even here in London and amongst educated people, I’ve met lots and spoken with lots of people who believe in kindoki and think it has power,” he said.
Kristy’s sisters, aged 20 and 11, were also beaten, but were let off after agreeing to confess to being possessed. The other two brothers, a 13-year-old and a 22-year-old with autism, were made to join in the torture.
At one point, Bikubi told the youngsters to jump out of the window to see if they could fly, the court heard.
The children hoped their elder sister would save them, but instead Bamu encouraged her boyfriend and beat Kristy until he also confessed to witchcraft.
His sister Kelly, now 21, broke down in court as she testified.
“They asked if we were witches. I repeated again and again and again that we were not witches,” she said. “They decided we had come there to kill them.”
“Kristy asked for forgiveness,” she added. “He asked again and again. Magalie did absolutely nothing. She didn’t give a damn. She said we deserved it.”
In a statement, Kristy’s family said they would never forget him, but would try to move forward as a family, adding: “Kristy was a delightful child with a promising future. We will miss him terribly.”
Judge David Paget, who will sentence the guilty pair on Monday, said the case had been so harrowing that the jurors were exempted from jury service for the rest of their lives.