A DOMINEERING football coach and his long-term girlfriend were found guilty yesterday of torturing a teenage family member to death because they believed he was a witch.
Eric Bikubu, 28, and his girlfriend Magalie Bamu were convicted of murdering her younger brother, Kristy Bamu, at their east London flat on Christmas Day 2010.
The 15-year-old had been subjected to three days of horrific violence which included being attacked with planks, metal bars and pliers. His attackers were convinced he was practising black magic. He eventually died after being placed in a bathtub where he drowned.
The conviction of Bikubu and Magalie Bamu is the culmination of a harrowing eight-week trial that has thrown a dramatic spotlight on the belief within some immigrant communities that people can be possessed by evil spirits; and the horrendous violence that is sometimes meted out to those who are accused of sorcery.
Kristy, a French national and keen footballer who lived with his parents in Paris, had travelled to London to spend the Christmas period with his sister Magalie, 29. He was accompanied by his older brother Yves, his older sister Kelly and two younger siblings who cannot be named for legal reasons.
The visit began amicably but soon descended into an orgy of violence directed towards Kristy, Kelly and their younger sister after Bikubi became convinced that all three were practising kindoki - a Congolese term for sorcery.
All three were savagely beaten in an attempt to exorcise them of evil spirits. Kristy suffered the worst of the violence. His torture was so severe that pathologists later counted more than 130 separate injuries on his body. Two of his teeth had been knocked out and a chunk of his ear had been torn off by a pair of pliers.
Jury members wept as a statement was read out from Kristy's father Pierre Bamu. In it he lamented that his family had been robbed not just of a son, but also a daughter and a son-in-law following the murder.
"Kristy died in unimaginable circumstances at the hands of people who he loved and trusted," Mr Bamu said.
"People who we all loved and trusted. To know that Kristy's own sister, Magalie, did nothing to save Kristy makes the pain that much worse.
"We are still unaware of the full extent of the brutality - we cannot bring ourselves to hear it."
In a remarkable show of magnanimity, Mr Bamu said he must forgive his son's killers for the sake of his family. "We will never forget, but to put our lives back into sync we must forgive," he said.
Bikubi, a football coach with a history of accusing people of witchcraft, never denied killing Kristy.
At the beginning of the trial at the Old Bailey he pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility because of a "schizophrenia-like disorder". However the jury decided that he was not insane at the time of Kristy's death and found him guilty of murder.
He had also pleaded guilty to two counts of actual bodily harm. Magalie Bamu pleaded not guilty to murder and tried to argue that she had been made to take part in the beatings by Bikubi.
She was found guilty to two counts of actual bodily harm but the jury were deadlocked over whether she was responsible for her younger brother's death. She was eventually convicted of murder after Judge David Paget QC said he would take a majority verdict from a jury that had deliberated for more than 26 hours.
Recognising the horrific nature of the trial and the harrowing evidence put in front of the court, Judge Paget excused the 12 jury members from ever having to sit on a case again should they wish not to.
Police 'shocked' by torture chamber
Shortly before noon on Christmas Day 2010, emergency-response workers received a telephone call from a distraught woman asking them to rush to her flat in Newham, east London.
"You must come," the woman sobbed. "My brother has drowned himself in the bath."
As the paramedics raced towards the 14-storey block of flats on Hathaway Crescent they might have been forgiven for thinking they were attending a tragic Christmas Day accident. But within minutes of their arrival they soon realised the scene in front of them was anything but that.
In the bathroom lay the lifeless body of 15-year-old Kristy Bamu. His older sister Magalie, the woman who had called the paramedics, and her boyfriend, Eric Bikubi, kept insisting that the teenager had drowned in the bath. But even a cursory glance showed that Kristy had been horrendously assaulted before he died.
His body, pathologists later found, had 130 separate injuries. Two of his teeth were missing and he was covered in lacerations. The bathroom floor and adjoining sitting room, meanwhile, were smeared with blood.
What the paramedics had actually stumbled upon was a torture chamber where a teenager was brutally murdered because his attackers believed he was a witch.
"I've seen a lot of things and like to think I'm hardened to most situations," one officer who was involved in the investigation told The Independent. "But what happened in that flat shocked me to the core. What those two did to that kid was horrific."
Kristy and his siblings had come to spend the Christmas holiday with Magalie and Eric. The first few days passed without incident. Magalie and Eric were in the middle of refurbishing their flat and they took the family out to buy building supplies and food. But on the third day, an argument began between Eric, Magalie and Kristy.
Speaking via a French interpreter, Kelly Bamu, 21, told jurors how Kristy had wet himself and tried to hide his underwear in the kitchen. When Eric and Magalie discovered what had happened they began to accuse him of being a witch. "That is what triggered everything," she said, staring intensely at her sister in the dock. "All over a pair of pants." Soon Kelly and her younger sister were also accused of being witches.
What followed over the next three days was a horrendous attempt by Magalie and Eric to "force the Devil" out of the three siblings. The rituals began with long bouts of praying and fasting but soon descended into awful violence as an array of weapons were used on the three hapless victims.
Magalie rarely looked up during her sister's evidence. Giving her own testimony, she argued that she was forced to take part in beatings by Bikubi, whom she described as "controlling" and sometimes violent. But in the end the jury decided that she was just as responsible for Kristy's murder as her boyfriend.
The court heard how Bikubi, a heavily built man, had previously accused a flatmate of being possessed by kindoki, a prevalent belief within Congolese culture that people can be overcome by evil spirits or practise malicious sorcery.
Only the neighbours gave any hint that something was amiss in the flat during the Christmas period. A number of them had complained that they could hear endless chanting and singing but when they tried to knock on the door they were either ignored or told that the family was praying.
Had the police been called, the outcome might have been very different. Instead, on Christmas Day morning, Eric and Magalie walked into the sitting room and ordered everyone to shower.
Kristy, Kelly and the two younger siblings were pushed into the bath and hosed down. Kristy's battered body couldn't take any more. He slumped to the bottom of the bath and, unable to lift himself any further, drowned.
It was only when he stopped moving that the violence against his two sisters finally came to an end.