Angolan girl tortured for being 'witch'

London, England - An Angolan girl of eight was repeatedly tortured and almost killed after being accused by another child of being a witch, in a case prosecutors described as "incredible".

The girl, who had endured months of ill-treatment, had been put in a laundry bag and was about to be thrown into a river when one of her tormentors managed to stop the others, the Old Bailey criminal court was told.

The ordeal for the girl -- who was not named for legal reasons -- began after another child told his mother that the girl had been using witchcraft against the family, prosecutor Patricia May said Monday.

Child cruelty charges levelled against three women and a man allege that chilli peppers were rubbed into the girl's eyes and she was beaten with a belt, slapped, cut with a knife and starved.

Of the three women, the girl's 39-year-old aunt, who also cannot be named, and 35-year-old Sita Kisanga, are additionally accused of conspiracy to murder, which they deny.

May said the young girl was brought to Britain from Angola in 2002 by the aunt, who claimed her as her daughter as both her parents were feared to be dead.

The victim and her aunt went to live with Kisanga, whose son accused the girl of using witchcraft to harm members of the family, the prosecutor said.

"There is no doubt a feeling among you that in Britain in 2005, such a notion would be incredible and no adult would believe it," May said, adding that the accusation was taken "very seriously indeed".

After the months of mistreatment, the two women decided to kill the girl by throwing her into the river, and had already put her in a laundry bag when one of the male defendants dissuaded them, the court heard.

The case was continuing.