BBC journalists nearly stoned to death by crowd who thought they were witch-doctor child killers
BBC journalists investigating a string of child murders were nearly stoned to death by a machete-wielding mob who mistook them for the killers.
The team were working undercover in Africa to expose black-magic witch doctors suspected of snatching children and using their body parts as charms for wealthy clients.
One self-confessed killer claimed to suck victims’ blood.
The victims, in northern Malawi in southern Africa, had been beheaded and body parts removed.
The father of one boy told the journalists: “I got a message that his body had been found without a head. I will never forget his face.”
Reporters from BBC Africa had teamed up with Anas Aremeyaw Anas, an undercover journalist who never shows his face, to investigate the murders.
Locals blamed the deaths on black-magic “muti” killers.
Mr Anas tracked down one self-confessed killer, known just as Kamanga, by posing as a businessman trying to increase his wealth with muti magic.
Undercover, he travelled to the killer’s home, a remote hut, and asked which body parts would be considered most helpful to his business. He was told mostly the head and genitals.
Mr Anas and the BBC team, Darius Bazargan and Henry Mhango, then held a night-time meeting with Kamanga. He and an accomplice told them he could create good luck for the men’s client by killing and sucking the blood of children.
“The fact is we kill them and throw them away. We can’t leave them,” one of the pair said.
“If we leave them, they can report us.”
Asked how they do it, one explained: “The first thing we take out is the genitals. We take the head. If you want, we can break the skull and take out the brain.”
“Or we can crack the skull and pull out the tongue,” the other man said.
The meeting was interrupted by approaching villagers, who had mistaken the BBC crew for murderers.
Armed with machetes, knives, clubs and stones, they accused the team of being “vampires”.
“You have made a big mistake,” one of the crew warned them, showing a BBC identity card.
“We need you to help us, OK?” one journalist pleaded.
Mr Anas recalled: “The attacks were intensifying.”
As the journalists were kicked and pelted with stones, one felt a knife cut through his suit.
“We knew that that was the moment we were going to die,” said Mr Anas.
“I held the hand of my producer. They were going to end our lives.”
The journalists were forced to run for their lives into the night as the mob continued to shout: “You are the murderers!”
The team were eventually saved by community police and a local chief but were injured by the stoning. One of their cars was smashed up.
In the confusion Kamanga and his accomplice also escaped.
After the attacks, the BBC journalists gave up their investigation, and the murders remain unsolved.
“I cry thinking that my boy was slaughtered like a chicken,” said the mother of one victim. “I pray to God that he punishes those who committed this evil.”