Private Eye magazine has an interesting article (not online, issue 1166) about the investigations into the murder of “Adam”, the unidentified African child whose dismembered torso was found next to the Thames five years ago, and into the abuse of children identified as suffering from possession in some churches. The Eye examines the influence of supposed experts in “Satanic ritual abuse” (SRA) in the investigation into the Adam killing:
…Initially key advocates tried to persuade the Metropolitan police investigating the murder…that it was a case of ritual abuse. They hoped the case would vindicate their claims and restore their credibility.
Early in the police investigation into the case of Adam, one of the most active believers in satanic abuse, Valerie Sinason…, a Harley Street pstchotherapist and psychoanalyst, offered her expertise to the police.
…In February 2000 the Metropolitan Police seconded Acting Detective Chief Inspector Clive Driscoll to investigate her claims to have interviewed 76 children and adult victims who, she said, had made allegations of satanic sexual abuse and murder. Although no forensic evidence was found to substantiate her allegations, Driscoll was evidently a believer.
The Eye, which has cast a sceptical eye over “Satanic ritual abuse” previously, notes Driscoll’s involvement with the Ritual Abuse Information Network and Support (RAINS), where he shared a platform with Kobus Jonker. Jonker, whom I’ve discussed before on this blog, used to run an “Occult-Related Crime Unit” in the South African police force, to which only Christians like himself were allowed to join (According to a quote in the Financial Times: “The ordinary guy cannot investigate occult crimes. There are things you see and experiences you have as a result of the supernatural. You must be strong in faith to be in the occult unit”). Jonker became a consultant to the “Adam” case:
…Officers travelled to South Africa to meet him. Thereafter the police referred to the torso in the Thames case, as it became known, as a “ritual” killing and spoke of black magic rituals.
This is an oversimplification: the link between “Adam’s” death and some sort of ritual rests on stronger grounds than just the dubious expertise of Jonkers and the SRA crowd. The Toronto Star interviewed Richard Hoskins, a specialist in African religions based at King’s College, London, in 2003:
The cut in Adam’s neck led Hoskins to believe the ritual was more likely from the west of Africa than the south.
“It was done in a very specific and deliberate way, clearly to bleed him to death in a relatively quick way. The point was to spill blood on the ground as an offering,” he says.
Hoskins says the orange colour of Adam’s shorts, and the dumping of his torso in the river is also ritually significant. He believes the murder or murderers sacrificed Adam to gain some sort of power or good luck for an undertaking in Britain.
…Also in his lower intestine were tiny clay pellets with specks of pure gold embedded on their surface, along with what appeared to be finely ground up bones…Hoskins says the concoction in Adam’s stomach is typical of the potions used to prepare victims for ritual killings in sub-Sahara Africa.
…”The case of Adam is definitely a ritualistic killing. There’s no doubt in my mind,” Hoskins says. “The remarkable thing is that he was brought from Africa to the U.K. specifically for the purpose.”
…Then in June last year a report commissioned by the Met was leaked to a [BBC] reporter…which claimed that young African boys were being trafficked to the UK and murdered as human sacrifices in churches after being labelled by pastors as “witches,” possessed by the devil. The sensational story was linked to a previous statement from the Metropolitan Police…saying 300 African boys had gone “missing” from school rolls over a four-month period.
This led to the Evening Standard running a headline that declared “Children sacrificed in London churches”, to the anger of black communities. More details appear in this BBC report, which shows that two issues were being conflated quite carelessly – “Adam’s” apparently ritual death is a very different matter than the problem of children being abused in violent exorcisms in some African (and other) churches.
The latter problem has come to the attention of the British media due to two high-profile crimes. The first was the 2000 murder of Victoria Climbié, a girl from the Ivory Coast who was tortured to death over a long period by sadistic relatives. However, although at one point an African pastor diagnosed her injuries as a sign of possession, her abuse does not appear to have been primarily inspired by religion. More recently, last summer saw the conviction of three people who had abused and nearly killed an Angolan girl – known as “Child B” by the media – in order to “beat the devil out of her”. This case has highlighted a growing phenomenon in central and southern Africa, where chaotic conditions and extreme poverty have led to traditional beliefs about witches metastasising into an extreme form directed mainly against unwanted orphans. But even in these cases, while exorcisms may be violent and dangerous, the aim is not to kill the child, much less to perform a “sacrifice”.
Hoskins, as I blogged a few months ago, has also been at the forefront of exposing this problem (taking a certain amount of flak for his efforts), and UK African pastors have now drawn up new guidelines concerning child protection. One question that I’ve had, though, is to what extent these new beliefs about evil powers have been influenced by outside forces, such as western Charismatic Christian teachings on demons and deliverance.
According to the Eye, the Met’s unpublished report was “shelved”, and a new report has been published by the Department for Education and Skills, entitled Child Abuse Linked to Accusations of “Possession” and “Witchcraft”. Sinason apparently offered to contribute to this report, but was rebuffed by the author, Eleanor Stobart. Stobart’s report doesn’t answer my particular question, but it does look at a wider context:
The author…concluded that belief in possession, witchcraft and exorcism was widespread in the UK and around the world, in African churches which had been influenced by evangelical Christianity, in Anglican churches in the UK but also in other religions which involved a belief in good and evil.
(Graham Dow, now the Bishop of Carlisle, is perhaps the most senior member of the Church of England to stress exorcism and the dangers of demons – his pamphlet Explaining Deliverance is helpfully summarised here).
She identified 38 cases [of abuse] involving 47 children mainly from Africa but also from South Asia, the Caribbean, Mauritius and also from a white English background.
…The abuse consisted of “severe beatings and other premeditated cruelties…” None involved sacrifice.
However, the Eye fails to note that although the report was published in June, it was actually ready in January. The Times reported:
The education department maintains that publication of the findings, which were delivered to Whitehall in January, has been delayed because they are being “studied by ministers”.
Critics insist the real reason is that the government is fearful of upsetting race relations. “They have found this quite hot to handle,” said Richard Hoskins, visiting research fellow in the sociology of religion at King’s College London and an expert witness in several court cases involving witchcraft claims.
I think it is almost as crude as white, liberal, middle-class people thinking they can’t be seen to be telling black people what they are doing wrong. It is ridiculous when you are dealing with children’s rights.”
So, on the one hand we’ve got politicians apparently reluctant to address a problem due to liberal squeamishness, and on the other a police force whose investigations are apparently being muddied by dubious “Satanic conspiracy” theorists. Not encouraging.
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