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article imageCrime, punishment and witchcraft in the Capital

By Alexander Baron     Mar 6, 2012 in Crime
A round up of some recent crimes in Greater London, including a witchcraft murder and a spate of street stabbings as well as the relatively new crime of bilking.
London is arguably the most Cosmopolitan city in the world; over 250 languages are spoken here. After this week it appears also to have the widest variety of bizarre, off-beat and senseless crimes.
Most people have heard of if not the Salem witch trials then others in which innocent and for the most part harmless men and women were tortured and even condemned to death after being accused of practising witchcraft. We laugh at witchcraft nowadays, most of us, but although witchcraft hysteria is largely a thing of the past, it is still with us, including here in London. On Christmas Day 2010, 15 year old Kristy Bamu was murdered by his own sister and her boyfriend because they believed him to be a witch. He was tortured for days, suffering a hundred and thirty separate injuries and was then drowned or allowed to drown in a bath tub.
After a trial which heard some harrowing evidence, his killers were gaoled for life at the Central Criminal Court.
All three were immigrants from the Congo, and the consensus is that this is the tip of a much larger iceberg. Such crimes are linked to a bizarre form of fundamentalist Christian belief that is intertwined with primitive African superstitions.
One of the most sickening images from the riots last August was of the treatment meted out to a young Malaysian student by two parties in quick succession. Ashraf Rossli was riding his bicycle when he was punched in the face by a stranger so hard that his jaw was broken by Beau Isagba (who was sentenced on Friday, March 9). As he sat on the ground, dazed and confused, a group of young men helped him up, but rather than being good Samaritans, they proceeded to rob him. The whole disgraceful cameo was caught on video - perhaps we should rethink the total surveillance society? - and Prime Minister David Cameron was only one of many who were outraged.
Though the assailant may have escaped unpunished, the robbers did not. John Kafunda and Reece Donovan, both aged 22, have now been convicted of robbery and violent disorder. They will be sentenced next month, but have been warned they can expect lengthy terms of imprisonment.
Showing incredible magnanimity, the victim said that although he welcomed the outcome, he had forgiven them for what they did.
If you are unfamiliar with the word bilking, it's one of those like grifting that isn't used as lot, and has the same meaning, ie to swindle someone. More precisely, it means to make off with the goods without paying for them. At one time, drivers who filled up with petrol (gas to you, Hank) then drove off without paying were few and far between. Back in 1972, when petrol was around 35p per gallon, it was all but unknown; thirty years later, filling your tank is an expensive proposition. On Monday, the BBC's Inside Out London programme revealed that criminal gangs are now filling up and driving away in cars equipped with stolen number plates or even stealing to order.
The programme can currently be found on iplayer for those who can receive it. According to the programme, there were some 12,000 reported bilkings in London last year, but this is of course a nationwide problem.
It is not only gangs but ordinary people driving expensive cars who are carrying out these thefts; some garages are said to be averaging one drive-off a week, which can be an expensive business for a franchisee operating on wafer thin profit margins.
Police in Slough set up Operation Colt to tackle the gangs; more than seventy officers took part, and two major operators were brought to book.
Finally, there has recently been a spate of stabbings in South London, including the murder of 17 year old Kwame Ofosu-Asare in Brixton last Friday. A number of arrests have been made, and this crime is said to be gang-related.
More about bilking, Murder, knifings, Ashraf Rossli, kristy bamu
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