Cops to learn how to spot child abuse linked to witchcraft after cases ‘missed’

Bobbies from the Metropolitan Police are being trained up to spot witchcraft-based child abuse after a number of cases were shamefully 'missed or misdiagnosed'.

Beliefs in witchcraft and possession have been linked to a number of murders and abuse cases concerning children in the UK in the past two decades, including the horrific killing of 9-year-old Victoria Climbié in 2000.

The girl from the Ivory Coast was tortured to death by her great-aunt, Marie-Thérèse Kouao, in London when she claimed she was possessed.

And in 2013, 8-year-old Ayesha Ali was killed by her mother after she smothered her with a pillow. She claimed the girl had "bad blood" and needed to have "evil removed from her".

New guidance from the Amber Project is designed to help officers identify warning signs of abuse connected to the beliefs, so they can refer cases to the authorities.

They are being told not to always write off unusual comments made by parents as mental health problems, but potentially as markers of a broader problem.

Inspector Allen Davis from Metropolitan Police told the BBC: "Cases are often missed or misdiagnosed. Practitioners may not recognise the risk of harm involved, chalking up these accusations to mental health problems or delusion.

"We need a concerted and co-ordinated response, where this issue is 'championed' locally so that it ceases to be viewed as a taboo issue and hidden harm.

Police were keen to stress their focus on cultural sensitivity in the drive, as a significant number of cases appear to have occurred in British African communities.

"Despite its complexity and the cultural sensitivities involved, we need to mainstream our response and ensure professionals are confident to discuss beliefs in a careful but direct and professionally curious manner.", he said.

In 2019, it was reported that up to 2000 children were known to have been abused in England because of beliefs in witchcraft and possession.

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