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Sorcery killing has police stumped

Tuesday 26 May 2015 | Published in Regional


WABAG – Local police say a complaint must be lodged before they can arrest the men suspected of hacking a woman to death in the remote highlands of Papua New Guinea.

The woman – identified as Misila – was reportedly murdered last week by a mob wielding bushknives and axes who accused her of sorcery over the deaths of several people from a measles outbreak in Enga province late last year.

She was saved earlier this year when police and missionaries led an intervention to protect her and three women from angry villagers.

However, reports say 10 men from the Hewa language area reportedly axed her to death while she was with her family on Monday.

Enga province’s police deputy commander Epenes Nili said a complaint had to be made before an arrest was possible.

“A complaint must be properly lodged at the nearest police station and from there we can take it on,” he said.

“I have not received one single report yet of how and when and why they murdered her.

“One of the relatives could come and formally lodge a complaint and then police can follow up on that complaint.”

Nili, who was involved in the woman’s rescue in January, said he had sent his condolences to the victim’s family.

“I am very sorry and also very angry. If there is a way for me, I’m also willing to take my troops into the remote location and have those perpetrators arrested immediately,” he said.

Despite law reforms making black magic killing a crime punishable by death, belief in witchcraft remains prevalent in many remote parts of PNG.

Nili urged the government to do more to tackle sorcery-related violence, which he said was spreading “like wildfire”.

“This must be stopped. It’s an evil practice and should be done away with,” he said.

“I am appealing to my elected leaders in parliament to come up with a constructive law to deal with sorcery in our country. It is now getting out of hand.”

Lutheran missionary Anton Lutz who works in the area said the woman was murdered by angry villagers who accused her of witchcraft after a measles epidemic killed several people in Enga province last year.

“Her family was helpless to do anything and she died. So far we’ve heard that her family is not seeking to retaliate against this group that came and killed her. They are hoping that the police will be able to apprehend them and seek justice another way.”