First case of faith-based abuse in Ireland as child left with brain damage after ‘exorcism’
A couple have been convicted of the neglect of and cruelty to their nine-year-old daughter, who needs carers for the rest of her life after suffering catastrophic brain damage.
The jury heard evidence that at one stage the father told a detective that he carried out a ritual to get a ‘devil’ to leave the child’s body
The Dublin-based 39-year-old man and his 36-year-old wife had pleaded not guilty to two charges of assault causing serious harm and three charges of child cruelty at the family home between June 28 and July 2, 2019.
The parents are originally from North Africa but came here some years ago. They cannot be named to protect the anonymity of the child.
Judge Martin Nolan remanded the couple in continuing custody until sentencing on January 24.
Outside court, Garda Inspector Brian Downey said it was the first case in Ireland of faith-based abuse and that the child had suffered ‘an exorcism’. He remarked: ‘This is the first case I know with [this] level of injuries.’
The trial heard evidence that the brain injuries the girl suffered were a result of a combination of blunt force trauma and violent shaking of the head.
One medical expert said that bruising around the face was indicative of blows to the face such as caused by punching. He said the child suffered swelling of the brain and subdural hematoma, or bleeding between the skull and the brain surface, and had bleeding in both eyes.
The injuries were the cause of the child losing consciousness and ultimately suffering permanent neurological damage.
The victim’s sister testified that she saw her sister unconscious and naked at around 11.30am on the morning of July 2 and that her mother said she thought her sister was dead.
Her mother called the father at work at around 1.30pm and said: ‘I told you I was going to kill her, why didn’t you stop me?’ The father arrived home from work shortly after 3pm, but only called an ambulance at 10pm.
He and his wife later lied to doctors and gardaí, claiming that he had only arrived home that evening. They also claimed the girl’s head injuries came from a fall from her bike days earlier and a fall in the shower that day.
Medical experts said the injuries were consistent with non-accidental injury.
During the Garda investigation, the father told a detective that he contacted a ruqyah, an Islamic faith healer, and that he told this man his daughter was saying ‘that the djinn was inside her’, referring to the Islamic idea of a spirit. The couple had moved to Ireland around 2011 and in March 2019 their eldest daughters, including the victim, followed.
Their younger brother, now aged nine, testified that on the day the ambulance came for his sister, he saw her lying on the floor ‘with her eyes open, but she couldn’t see’.
The now 14-year-old sister of the victim told the trial that on July 2, she heard her mother shouting and heard banging and then her mother called her. She saw her sister lying naked and passed out on the floor. She said her mother said: ‘We can’t let anyone know this’, before adding: ‘I’m going to go to jail.’