Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 31 July 2014

Crowds see woman burned as witch

A woman has been burned alive on a pile of tyres in Papua New Guinea

A woman accused of witchcraft has been burned alive in front of hundreds of witnesses in Papua New Guinea.

The brutal slaying of 20-year-old mother-of-one Kepari Leniata on Wednesday has been condemned by the nation's prime minister, police and diplomatic observers.

She was stripped naked by several assailants, tortured with a hot iron rod, bound, doused in petrol, then set alight on a pile of car tyres and rubbish in the Western Highlands provincial capital of Mount Hagen, police spokesman Dominic Kakas said.

Some of the hundreds of bystanders took photographs and grisly pictures were published on the front pages of the country's biggest circulating newspapers, The National and Post-Courier.

Ms Leniata was accused of sorcery by relatives of a six-year-old boy who died in the local hospital the day before, Mr Kakas said. "Investigations are continuing. We've got good leads. The husband is the prime suspect," he said.

Mr Kakas said the death was the first sorcery-related murder in Papua New Guinea in a year.

Police Commissioner Tom Kulunga described the murder as "shocking and devilish". He said: "We are in the 21st century and this is totally unacceptable."

He suggested courts be established to deal with sorcery allegations, as an alternative to villagers dispensing justice.

Pete O'Neill, prime minister of the South Pacific island nation, said he had instructed police to use all available manpower to bring the killers to justice.

"It is reprehensible that women, the old and the weak in our society should be targeted for alleged sorcery or wrongs that they actually have nothing to do with," he said.

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