The Maryland Ritual Murders
Liberia's most notorious ritual killing case
As previously reported, on July 16, 1977 President Tolbert ordered 5 days of prayers and fasting. Among those who prayed in one of Monrovia’s numerous churches was Allen Yancy, son of a former Vice President, church leader, former Chief of Police, Country Attorney, cousin of former president William Tubman, member of the House of Representatives for Maryland County, and recipient of many honorary national and foreign distinctions. Also on July 16, 1977 President Tolbert fired James Daniel Anderson, Superintendent of Maryland County, for failure of not reporting the disappearance of 14 people in his county since November 1976 and of not taking any action. Superintendent Anderson was no ‘small fish’, his father was the National Chairman of the True Whig Party. A few days later former Superintendent Anderson, Representative Yancy and nine more people were arrested, accused of ritual murder.
The editor of one of the most prominent national newspaper certainly did not hide his knowledge and feelings when he wrote: 'The recent dismissal of Maryland Superintendent James N. Anderson came as no surprise (....). For too long have the citizens of Maryland been living in fret. More than 100 citizens have been murdered in that county from 1965 to 1977.'
That was not a small accusation towards the local authorities. More than 100 people murdered. Without any doubt the writer meant ‘ritually killed’. Was his allegation based on facts or fiction? The question is hard to answer. What is sure, however, is that ritual killings in Liberia were by no means sporadic, as the list of ritual murder cases cited in this essay clearly demonstrates. It even is very likely that the cases discovered and published only were the top of the ice-berg and that many cases of ritual killing have never been and will never be revealed.
For people in Harper and other parts of Maryland County ritual killings were a daily threat in the 1970s. I can speak from my own experience. In the late 1970s I lived in Harper City, even in one of its most dreaded parts, on the peninsula leading to the lighthouse and the harbour. In the beginning of the road leading to the harbour stood the Masonic Temple, a few hundreds yards further to the left was the yellow painted mansion of the late President Tubman. Local people used to tell me how frightened they were walking that road at night. Too many people had disappeared without traces and those who had been found later all shared the same fate: mutilated before being killed. One of them was Simon Toe from Grandcess Territory. Two days after Simon Toe had arrived in Harper he disappeared. Several days thereafter Simon Toe’s body was found on the beach with his intestine out of his body and other parts missing. Another victim was a girl whose name was not disclosed. She disappeared in the Firestone area near Harper. When she was found dead her ear, throat and tongue were missing. Unfortunately, there were many more victims. Generally, the assassins got away with it. Not the murderers of Moses Tweh, however.
Below the kidnapping and killing of Moses Tweh has been reconstructed on the basis of reports published by all Liberian daily and weekly newspapers (see bibliography). Spelling of names of the accused, however, is not always consistent and also dates of their arrest vary. Be that as it may, the story reads as follows.
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