Hindu 'priest' cons NRI woman in UK

Hema Bhalsod, 37, was told by the man named Shankar that she was possessed by demons and needed to have cleansing rituals performed when she contacted him to complain about feeling unwell.

Shankar also told her that her family's gold jewellery was cursed and that she should hand it over to him. When she did so, he disappeared, reports from Leicester said.

During her interaction with him, Bhalsod reportedly took out 7,000 pounds in bank loans and handed over 15,000 pounds worth of family gold. She said she felt humiliated and hurt by the experience.

Shankar is now reported to have left Britain and returned to Kerala. Bhalsod said: "It was stupid to think he was helping me but I was desperate. I'm totally broke now and he has my family's gold".

She said a leaflet advertising the services of the "priest" was posted through her door in June. She had been feeling unwell for a couple of weeks and had been to see her doctor, who had been unable to diagnose the problem.

Despite being hesitant she rang the number on the leaflet in search of advice.
She said: "A man calling himself Shanker said I should come and meet him and he would try to find out what was wrong. He said I had demons inside me and asked for 325 pounds to perform a ritual with fire".

"It was very strange, I felt like I was almost under a spell". She added: "He said for 2,000 pounds he would be able to remove the bad energy, so I took out a loan. But I started to feel worse".

The man then asked the woman to wait for nine days before returning to him and when she did he said he needed 5,000 pounds so someone in India could also perform a ritual.
"I just wanted the problem solved and to feel better again, so I took out another loan.

Again he said to wait nine days and on the ninth day I started to feel myself again".
The 'priest' then reportedly told her the gold jewellery she was wearing had been cursed with black magic.

In October, he asked her to collect all the gold in her house and take it to him at an address in Leicester so he could cleanse it.

She said: "I took it to him and he said to wait outside for an hour while he performed another ritual. I had been outside for more than an hour so I went into the house and he was gone. I felt so stupid and realised what he had done".

Ramanbhai Barber, president of Shree Sanatan Mandir temple, urged people not to fall for similar scams.

He said: "We are against people like this who come here and place adverts in the paper or wherever saying they can cure this and that. It's not correct, it's all humbug. We believe strongly in faith but this is not faith."

A police spokeswoman said it was believed that the suspect may have left the country.
She said: "We would urge anyone who thinks they have information about a bogus spiritual healer in Leicester to call us immediately".

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