PNG woman tortured and killed in horrifying video over ‘sorcery’

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Horror torture in Hela
How today's The National reported the killing of a young woman in a sanguma, or sorcery, related crime in Hela province last month. Image: The National screenshot

By Miriam Zarriga in Port Moresby

A Papua New Guinean woman accused of killing a two-year-old boy through sorcery was assaulted, tortured and killed after her limbs were chopped off in Margarima, Hela, last month, police report.

Hela’s officer-in-charge CID, Sergeant Daniel Olabe, named the dead woman as Mary Kopari who was in her late 30s.

A video obtained by The National showed a horrifying scene of a lone woman, tied spread eagled between two posts and tortured.

The video shows the woman, dragged between the posts, hands and legs bound by barbed wire.

She screams in pain as her torturers tighten the barb wire around her ankles while other men look on with no one reaching out to assist her.

Kopari was from Halungi village, in South Koroba LLG, Koroba-Kopiago, and was married to a man from Tatape village in the Lower Wage LLG, Komo-Margarima.

The relatives of the boy suspected three women, along with Koparo, had “caused his death”. The other women escaped.

No idea what happened
Sergeant Olabe said Kopari had no idea of what had happened.

She was busy selling potatoes at the Margarima market when she was approached by the boy’s relatives. They confronted Kopari and demanded to know why she was practising sorcery (sanguma), Sergeant Olabe said.

“Mary was rounded up and taken to an area in Margarima where she was tied up between two posts and tortured, hands and legs bound by barbed wire.

The woman was tortured, assaulted and burned for nine hours before her attackers chopped off her limbs, killing her.

“Her severed limbs and body were taken to and left at Tigibi, in the Hulia local level government along the road,” Sergeant Olabe said.

‘Sorcery’ torture cases endemic
Kopari was among five women in two months who had been accused of sorcery in four different provinces of Papua New Guinea with the first reported case of a man accused of sorcery in Daru, Western province.

In Enga last week, a woman who was tortured eventually died from injuries suffered.

It was reported that the woman, who was rescued by police and taken to the Wabag General Hospital, was accused by her late husband’s family, of causing the death of a man in Kopiam.

In Eastern Highlands, a mother and daughter who were rescued by police in Goroka are still recovering with police yet to make an arrest of those implicated on the attack.

In Daru, a man accused of causing the death of five people was dragged out of his home at the Samarai settlement and tortured before police intervened.

However, he died from the injuries he suffered.

In the National Capital District, two women from Eastern Highlands were tortured and rescued by police. Both were found tied and burned after being accused of sorcery.

No arrests made
From these cases, no arrests have been made.

The National has reached out to police investigators with the same report given that while suspects had been identified, it was hard to arrest them because they lived near the accused families or they were related.

Witnesses are also too scared to come forward because of the fear of reprisal.

In a recently concluded Special Parliamentary Committee on Gender-Based Violence public hearing the committee heard about the hardships of those who continue to fight against gender-based violence (GBV) and sorcery cases.

Committee deputy chair and East Sepik Governor Allan Bird told The National that “we should not stand around while women and girls are tortured and killed on suspicion of sorcery”.

“Those who commit horrendous murder should be arrested and charged,” he said.

Miriam Zarriga is a reporter for The National. This article is republished with permission.

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