An independent review will be carried out into agencies’ handling
of a case involving a girl tortured by her carers who believed she
was a witch, after they were found guilty of child cruelty charges
at the Old Bailey last week.
Penny Thompson, Hackney Council’s chief executive, said that the
City and Hackney Safeguarding Children Board would review the
involvement of agencies in the case.
Following the verdicts, Scotland Yard launched Project Violet to
look into communities in London where children are believed to have
been mistreated in the name of religion.
Debbie Ariyo, executive director of Africans Unite Against Child
Abuse, said action was urgently required.
Two women, one of whom is the eight-year-old’s aunt, who cannot be
named for legal reasons, and another relative Sita Kisanga, 35,
rubbed chilli peppers in the child’s eyes and stabbed her in the
chest after believing she had become possessed.
The pair forced her into a laundry bag and threatened to drown her
in a canal before another relative Sebastian Pinto warned them that
they would go to prison. The women were cleared of conspiracy to
murder but Pinto was convicted of aiding and abetting child
The aunt had brought the girl to Britain from Angola in August
2002, pretending to be her mother, and claimed asylum. The girl
then went to live with Kisanga in Hackney where the abuse began.
In November 2003, Hackney Council street wardens found the girl on
the steps outside her flat cold and hungry with swollen eyes. She
was interviewed by police and taken to a doctor and finally social
services after her swollen eye and head bruises were examined. She
said that it was only Kisanga who beat her and she was returned to
her aunt’s care in Haringey on Christmas Eve as she was not
suspected of abusing her.
But the girl was taken to hospital in January last year after being
referred by Haringey social services, where a doctor found injuries
that suggested she had been deliberately assaulted. The girl then
told the police the whole story.
The three defendants were remanded in custody until July when they
will be sentenced.