Mum on trial for FGM 'used witchcraft' to silence UK police

by Emma Batha | @emmabatha | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Thursday, 17 January 2019 20:04 GMT

ARCHIVE PHOTO: A statue holding the scales of justice is seen on top of the Old Bailey in London, December 12, 2003. REUTERS/Stephen Hird

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Jury shown pictures of two cow tongues which police discovered in the freezer of the mother's east London flat

By Emma Batha

LONDON, Jan 17 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A mother accused of carrying out female genital mutilation (FGM) on her 3-year-old daughter tried to silence police with witchcraft spells including one involving cow tongues pierced with nails, a London court heard on Thursday.

Police launched an investigation after the girl's parents rushed her to hospital following severe bleeding and doctors found three cuts to her genitalia.

The girl later told police that a woman, whom she referred to as a "witch", had cut her between the legs at her home.

The parents, who cannot be named for legal reasons, deny two charges of FGM and failing to protect a girl from the risk of FGM on Aug. 28, 2017.

FGM has been illegal in Britain since 1985, but there has never been a successful prosecution.

The jury at the Central Criminal Court were shown pictures of two cow tongues on Thursday which police discovered in the freezer of the mother's east London flat some weeks later.

Forensic scientist Allan Allday said the tongues were bound with twine.

"There were a number of screws and ... some nails embedded in the flesh," he told the jury. He also found pieces of paper and a paste, apparently containing chilli and candle wax, inside each bundle.

One of the tongues was folded around a knife wrapped in a piece of printed paper bearing the name of a family services lawyer for the local authority, Allday said.

In another search, police found more than 40 limes and other fruit in the freezer with pieces of paper inside containing the names of officers, social workers and the then director of public prosecutions.

Prosecutor Joel Smith said the pieces of paper had messages such as "I make your life bitter", "I freeze your mouth ... shut up, shut up" and "Stay away from me ... I freeze you out of my life".

A jar containing powdered pepper and a picture of one of the social workers was found in the bathroom.

Smith said spell recipes were also discovered in a book the mother asked a neighbour to look after during the investigation. The spells referred to broken glass, nails, candles, photos, "protection oil", "banishing powder" and voodoo dolls.

The mother, 37, who is from Uganda, and the father, 43, who is from Ghana, told doctors and police their daughter was injured after falling onto a kitchen cupboard door with a metal strip while reaching for some biscuits.

But an expert on child injuries told the jury the cuts could not be explained by a fall.

"I do not see how it's physically possible," forensic paediatric pathologist Andreas Marnerides said.

A fall would have caused general bruising and abrasions rather than three specific cuts to the genitals, he said.

The jury heard the girl's labia minora had been almost completely severed and there was a laceration to the clitoris.

Two of the country's top FGM experts have testified that the injuries were consistent with FGM. (Reporting by Emma Batha @emmabatha; Editing by Katy Migiro. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit

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