Boys from Africa are being murdered as human sacrifices in London churches.
They are brought into the capital to be offered up in rituals by fundamentalist Christian sects, according to a shocking report by Scotland Yard.
Followers believe that powerful spells require the deaths of “unblemished” male children.
Police believe such boys are trafficked from cities such as Kinshasa where they can be bought for a little as £10.
The report, leaked ahead of its publication next month, also cites examples of African children being tortured and killed after being identified as “witches” by church pastors.
The 10-month study was commissioned after the death of Victoria Climbié, who was starved and beaten to death after they said she was possessed by the devil.
The aim of the Met study was to create an “open dialogue” with the African and Asian community in Newham and Hackney. In discussions with African community leaders, officers were told of examples of children being murdered because their parents or carers believe them to be possessed by evil spirits. Earlier this month Sita Kisanga, 35, was convicted at the Old Bailey of torturing an eight-year-old girl from Angola she accused of being a witch.
Kisanga was a member of the Combat Spirituel church in Dalston. Many such churches, supported mainly by people from West Africa, sanction aggressive forms of exorcism on those thought to be possessed.
There are believed to be 300 such churches in the UK, mostly in London.
The report was put together by an expert social worker and lawyer for the Met after talking to hundreds of people in African communities in a series of workshops. It uncovered allegations of witchcraft spells, child trafficking and HIV-positive people who believe that by having sex with a child they will be “cleansed”.
An extract reads: “People who are desperate will seek out experts to cast spells for them.
“Members of the workshop stated that for a spell to be powerful it required a sacrifice involving a male child unblemished by circumcision. They allege that boy children are being trafficked into the UK for this purpose.”
It adds: “A number of pastors maintain that God speaks through them and lets them know when someone is possessed.
“It is therefore their duty to deliver the child or adult from the evil spirit.
“After much debate they acknowledge that children labelled as possessed are in danger of being beaten by their families.
“However, they would not accept they played a role in inciting such violence.”
Last month Scotland Yard revealed it had traced just two out of 300 black boys aged four to seven reported missing from London schools in a three-month period.
The true figure for missing boys and girls is feared to be several thousand a year.
The scale of the problem emerged through the murder inquiry following the discovery of a child’s torso in the Thames in September 2001. The identity of the victim, named Adam by police, is not known but his background was traced to Nigeria. It is believed he died in a ritual sacrifice.
John Azar, who helped the police on that inquiry, told Radio4’s Today programme that the known cases could be “the tip of the iceberg”.
Police working on the Adam case have found children are being sold to traffickers on the streets of major African cities for less than £10 and then smuggled into the UK. The children arrive in London armed with false documents and accompanied by adults who believe they will bolster their asylum claims.
Dr Richard Hoskins, a lecturer of Theology and Religious Studies at King’s College, said: “We know this through work we have been doing on the Adam inquiry. These children are ripe for people to abuse. They are easy prey.”
A Met spokesman said: “We undertook a project aimed at improving our knowledge of issues impacting child abuse within the African and Asian communities of London. The aim of the project was to open a dialogue within these communities and encourage a debate which would help reduce the risks of harm to children.”
The report says there is a wide gulf between these communities and social services and protection agencies with many people in ethnic communities scared to speak out.
The report concludes police face a “wall of silence” when dealing with such cases.
Experts differ on the merits of the Scotland Yard report.
Dr William Les Henry, a lecturer in sociology at Goldsmiths College, said aspects of the reports were pigeonholing crimes together and were patronising and racist.
He said: “When we think about these cases we can see the same kind of patterns of behaviour in European cultures but they are interpreted in completely different ways.
“This is one of the crises with social sciences anyway, when they are supposedly interpreting the folk ways or cultural habits of alien cultures.” He said that the models such reports are based on are that “Africans are less civilised, less rational”.
But Dr Hoskins said: “This is very detailed, qualitative report that actually comes out of the communities.
“This is not white people saying this. This has actually comes from the communities authored by people in the community and that really stymies the racist line.” He added: “We are dealing with real cases here. When you actually talk to them, these are hard and fast facts.
“So I don’t think we are getting wrong, but it is right to treat it sensitively.”
He believes vulnerable people are being manipulated by spiritual leaders.
“This is absolutely what is going on. They are often very vulnerable, poor people.
“It is people in positions of power and money that are manipulating poor people.”