Sri Lankan police said on Monday they arrested two people in connection with the death of a 9-year-old girl who was repeatedly beaten during a ritual they believed would drive away an evil spirit. The two suspects, the woman who performed the exorcism and the girl’s mother, were due to appear in court on Monday to hear charges in the girl’s death, which occurred over the weekend in Delgoda, a small town about 40 miles northeast of the capital Colombo.
According to police spokesman Ajith Rohana, the mother believed her daughter had been possessed by a demon and brought her to the exorcist’s house so that a ritual could be performed to ward off the spirit.
Rohana said that the exorcist first put oil on the girl and then began repeatedly beating her with a cane. When the girl lost consciousness, she was taken to a hospital, where she died. An autopsy was scheduled for Monday.
The woman who performed the ritual with the girl was known in the area for offering such services in recent months and police were investigating whether anyone else had been abused, Rohana said.
Rohana urged the public to be careful with these services, as the girl was not the first to die during that ritual.