A young mother was tossed screaming on to a pyre of tyres and burned alive after being accused of killing a neighbour’s six-year-old son with sorcery.
Kepari Leniata, 20, ‘confessed’ after she was dragged from her hut, stripped naked and tortured with white-hot iron rods.
She was then dragged to a local rubbish dump, doused in petrol and, with hands and feet bound, thrown on a fire of burning tyres. As the mother-of-two screamed in agony, more petrol-soaked tyres were thrown on top of her.
The horrendous scene took place in in the village of Paiala, in the highlands of Papua New Guinea where many believe that witchcraft exists and sorcery is used to kill enemies.
The head bishop of a Lutheran Church located in the district today condemned the killing.
‘Sorcery and sorcery-related killings are growing and the government needs to come up with a law to stop such practice,’ David Piso told The National newspaper.
‘Many innocent and helpless people have been killed and tortured after being accused of witchcraft, but taking a life is against the teachings of the Bible and the laws of the country,’ he said.
The tragedy unfolded after Miss Leniata’s young neighbour fell sick on Tuesday morning. He complained of pains in the stomach and chest and was taken to Mt Hagen hospital where he died a few hours later.
Relatives of the boy were suspicious that witchcraft was involved in the death and learned that two women had gone into hiding in the jungle.
After they were tracked down, the pair admitted they practised sorcery but had nothing to do with the boy’s death. Miss Leniata, they said, was the person responsible.
The boy’s family went to her hut at 7am on Wednesday, stripped her and dragged her away to torture and death.
Pictures of the horrific scene were soon circulating online. The Post Courier newspaper said the torture and brutal murder of a mother of two ‘provided a photo opportunity for many of the onlookers, including school children, who crowded around and took photos of the woman being consumed alive by the fire.’
Police who rushed to the area were turned back by the angry crowd, but were able to drive away with one of the other women while the second has fled.
Papua New Guinean police have launched a murder investigation and are reportedly preparing charges against those responsible.
A firetruck which had been called to the scene was chased away by the crowd.
Authorities and international diplomats have spoken out against the torching of the young mother, leaves behind two children, the youngest an eight-month-old girl.
The country’s Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has sworn to bring the killers to justice, as he addressed the matter in a statement today.
‘No one commits such a despicable act in the society that all of us, including Kepari, belong to,’ he said.
‘Barbaric killings connected with alleged sorcery. Violence against women because of this belief that sorcery kills. These are becoming all too common in certain parts of the country.
‘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.’
The U.S. embassy on the Papua New Guinea issued a statement condemning the “’brutal murder’ calling it evidence of ‘pervasive gender-based violence’.
’We add our voice to those of Papua New Guinean religious and civil society leaders who have spoken out against the brutality inflicted upon Ms Leniata,’ the embassy said.
‘There is no possible justification for this sort of violence. We hope that appropriate resources are devoted to identifying, prosecuting, and punishing those responsible for Ms Leniata’s murder.’