A 22-year-old woman has been killed during an exorcism ritual in New Zealand, drowning in the house of a relative as up to 40 family members looked on, police said yesterday.
Janet Moses, a mother of two, was held under water in an attempt to drive away a makutu or Maori curse. Containers holding an "extensive amount" of water had been brought into the lounge of the house in Wellington for the ceremony.
Article continues The woman was dead for nine hours before her family contacted police. She had been placed on a bed and was found with grazes to her upper arms, forearms and torso. Police initially treated it as an unexplained death until a postmortem examination ruled out natural causes and revealed that she had drowned.
The head of the inquiry, Detective Sergeant Ross Levy confirmed that a "cultural ceremony" had taken place and said police were treating the death as a homicide.
The exorcism took place on October 12. Moses, who had two daughters aged one and three, stayed at her relative's house in the week leading up the exorcism. A woman living next door said she heard loud noises on the night of the ceremony "like banging on a wall" and that a large number of people had been entering and leaving the house.