'Exorcist' aunt, others strangulate Thane children to death

"Om Jaiswal (5) and his sister Ritika (2) were done to death by their aunt Hemanshu and other family members, believing that they were under the influence of some evil spirit," Thane (rural) SP Vishwas Nagare Patil said.

According to Patil, Hemanshu yesterday claimed that she could "see an evil spirit hovering over the children", while they were sleeping and could "exorcise" them. Accordingly, she with the help of others, including the victims' parents, started thumping the children's chest and strangulated them to death, Patil said.

Om and Ritika were rushed to a nearby hospital last night by their parents stating they fell down while playing in the house at Jaimatadi building in Oswal Nagar. The duo, who sustained injuries on neck and chest, were declared dead in the hospital after they were brought in an unconscious condition, police said, adding subsequently an accidental death case was registered.

However, the post-mortem report today suggested the children were strangulated to death, police said. The case was then converted as a murder incident and seven persons including the children's 29-year-old father were arrested.

The children's parents Rita and Vishal, uncles Sanjay and Satish, aunt Hemanshu, grand parents Satyaprasad and Sumitra were arrested and charged with murder, Patil said. Police said though the motive was not yet clear, they were probing if it was a case of child sacrifice.

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