PNG police detain sorcery-accused on separate allegation

9:05 am on 24 January 2018

Police in Papua New Guinea are detaining a man who was attacked over the death of the country's late rugby league star Kato Ottio.

The man was alleged by villagers in Port Moresby to have used witchcraft or sorcery to kill the former Kumuls player who died in hospital earlier this month after collapsing during a training session.

Public disclosure of results from a post mortem into Kato Ottio's death is still pending. But in absence of a clear explanation for his death, speculation has run rife among the grieving public.

After rumours about the use of sorcery being behind his death gained a foothold in the league star's home town, villagers in Tatana had set upon the man and were reportedly torturing him when police arrived to rescue him on Monday.

The Police Minister Jelta Wong confirmed that the man had been taken in to custody for questioning over a different matter, regarding a molestation case.

"We're investigating every avenue into this, so we don't leave any stone unturned, so that by the time we finish the investigation, we can go back to Tatana and tell those people ok, this is what has happened, this is what we got him for, and we have the evidence and everything, and that's how we'll stop them from putting this sorcery mentality into other people's minds."

Jelta Wong said that community police have gone to Tatana to make it clear that the man is not in custody over sorcery-related allegations.

The man suffered knife wounds after he was set on by the angry villagers in the northwest of the PNG capital. When going to rescue him, police were also attacked by the villagers.

Mr Wong said the force was doing its best to contain the surging sorcery-related violence.

There have been a number of high-profile attacks on people over accusations over the alleged use of witchcraft.

Mr Wong said better education among PNG's general population would help counter the problem.

In some provinces where attacks have occurred, police lack the manpower and resources to arrest those using sorcery as an excuse to attack people.

Mr Wong admitted that police are limited in what they can do.

"So what we do is try to send out the squads out in certain areas to contain this type of violence. And it usually happens in two or three provinces only, so we're hoping to curb it all so it doesn;t spread out anywhere else."

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