Rise in child abuse cases involving 'witchcraft', figures show

Project Violet is the specialist faith-based abuse team within the Metropolitan Police Credit: Reuters

Child abuse cases that involve accusations of witchcraft and exorcism appear to be on the rise.

The Metropolitan Police's specialist faith-based abuse team, known as Project Violet, has identified 60 incidents so far in 2015.

In one incident, a nine-year-old boy was called a "devil child" and thrown out of his home by his parents, detectives revealed.

The figures are part of a BBC investigation, which noted that half of UK police forces do not differentiate such cases and many local authorities are unable to provide statistics on he number of such case.

But a Freedom of Information request to councils across the UK showed 31 instances of a child being accused of witchcraft or possession by spirits in 2014, compared to 21 cases in 2013 and ten in 2012.

Detective Sergeant Terry Sharpe, from Project Violet, said cases remain "small in number" but "there has been a significant increase".

Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live Investigates, he said: "You'll get the actual physical abuse and injuries taking place, and in the worst case scenario we've had some homicides as well."

Debbie Ariyo, founder of Africans Unite Against Child Abuse, said that within churches there is often a financial motivation behind claims.

She said: "The pastor says there's a witch in this church today; looks around and points to a child - that means public humiliation for the family.

"The next step is exorcism which is not done for free. It's a money-making scam."

But she warned against viewing the issue as solely affecting the African community, adding that her organisation has supported victims from other faiths and cultural backgrounds.

Previous high-profile cases have included the murder of Kristy Bamu, 15, who was tortured and drowned by his sister and her boyfriend in 2010 after they accused him of being involved in witchcraft.