! Warning !  
the following links lead to graphic pictures and description of ritual practices.

A wave of ritual killings

A former rubber planter who worked in Grand Bassa County during the Tubman and Tolbert years, told me that each year some workers would mysteriously disappear from the plantation, notably in the month of December. Co-workers, when asked for information, would just shrug their shoulders saying 'He will never come back'. He also cited the arrest and imprisonment of one of his overseers, who was jailed for a few months because of his involvement in a ritual murder case. Upon return, the man - when asked for the reason of his absence - told that he had acted upon orders of the local medicine man. 

(Source: personal communication from former rubber planter Niek van Wijk to the author, FVDK; April 1, 2005).

The foregoing may illustrate that ritual murders are likely to have happened each and every year in Liberia. 

Ritual murder cases 1975 - 1980: a selection

In the second half of the 1970s a wave of ritual killings was reported in the local newspapers. One may wonder how this openness in the Liberian press can be explained. Certainly, one explanation – and a positive one – is the relative freedom of expression and of the press that characterized these days of the Tolbert Administration. True as this may be, the possibility cannot be ruled out that reporting of the ritual killings was orchestrated, or at least encouraged by the Tolbert Administration, for the owners of these newspapers were virtually all part of the political establishment and close to the ruling elite. However, one should also not forget that many educated Liberians, both Americo-Liberian and tribal, abhorred the criminal practices of a small part of the ruling elite that considered itself above the law. 

The selection of newspaper reports (below) show that ritual killings happened in all regions of the country: in the Hinterland, on the coast, even in the nation’s capital. The reports cover the discovery of the bodies, sometimes the arrest of suspects, but rarely the trial of the accused. The two exceptions to the latter are the trial of the murderers of Moses Tweh (Maryland County) and of Princelett Hilton Tiah (Sinoe County). It is likely that the cases referred to below are just the top of the iceberg. The exact number of ritual murders will never be known. 

The original text at times included grammatical and typo errors. These were left unchanged. The same applies for some political or administrative (sub-)divisions which meanwhile have been changed. 

A selection:

Sunday Express, November 30, 1975:
“Man Found Dead With Heart, Male Organ Missing – In Marshall Territory” 

Liberian Star, March 4, 1976: 
“Murder: Four Detained” (Monrovia)

Sunday Express, August 29, 1976: 
“Policeman’s Body Found Dismembered” (Monrovia) 

Sunday Express, November 21, 1976: 
“Child’s Murder in Maryland County. Big Names Linked?”. 

All newspapers: 
The Maryland Murders. 
Moses Tweh was ritually murdered in July 1977. Big names involved.

Liberian Star, August 9, 1977: 
“Ritualistic Killings: Another Victim Found” (Nimba County) 

The Liberian Age, August 19, 1977:
”Ritual Killing? 10-year-old found dead in lagoon” (Montserrado County) 

The Liberian Age, August 19, 1977: 
"Teacher arrested for ritual killing in Maryland" 

Sunday Express, November 6, 1977: 
“In Kru Coast Territory – Another Brutal Killing – Mayor, Judge and others arrested”. 

Sunday Express, November 6, 1977:
Ritual Murder in New Kru Town, Monrovia

MICAT Press Service, February 22, 1978:  
"Maryland Police arrests nine persons for kidnapping in Harper"

MICAT Press Service, February 22, 1978: 
"Police arrests thirteen persons for ritual murder in Grandcess".

All newspapers
The Sinoe Ritualistic Killing. 
Princelett Hilton Teah was ritually murdered on July 26, 1978. Big names involved.

MICAT Press Service, September 27, 1978:
"Seven Arrested For Kidnapping in Rock Cess, River Cess Territory". 

Scope, January 31,1979:
Six Suspects Held for Kidnapping (Lofa County)

Bentol Times, April 11, 1979: 
“Ritualistic Murder? C.I.D. Investigating” (Montserrado County)

The New Liberian, April 12, 1979:
"New Turn in Caldwell Ritual Murder Episode" (Montserrado County)

The Liberian Inaugural, October 24, 1979: 
"Man Found Dead in Marshall Territory". 

Bentol Times, November 7, 1979: 
“Judge Arrested! Implicated in Ritual Murder” (Sasstown) 

The Liberian Inaugural, November 7, 1979: 
"Boy, 3, Found Dead" (Monrovia) 

The Liberian Inaugural, April 2, 1980:
"Man, 50, Found Dead With Testicles Missing"" 
(Nimba County) 

Sunday People, March 30, 1980: 
"In the Wave of Recent Ritualistic Killings: 

Next: The preacher-President’s crusade against a sinful world  
































Liberian Press in the '70's

* The Press Service of the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism (MICAT) was an important source of information, but of course reflecting the government's views. Also The New Liberian was published by the Ministry of Information.

* The Liberian Age, privately-owned, very much supportive of the TWP which (partly?) financed the newspaper.
Editor-in-Chief  in the late 1970s was 
Stanton B. Peabody. Both the Liberian Age and the TWP were banned after the 1980 military coup. 

* The Liberian Star,  privately-owned. 
Editorial Director: 
James L.  Marshall, Sr. 

* The Liberian Inaugural (weekly) and The Sunday People (weekly), both owned and edited by 
Daniel Draper, Jr. 

* The Sunday Express (weekly) and the Bentol Times (weekly), owned by the same private company.
John F. Scotland was
Editor-in-Chief of both newspapers. The Bentol Times was banned in 1980 (NB President Tolbert resided in Bentol City).

* Scope (irragular), privately owned. 
Zac Wleh Humphrey.

* Focus, privately owned. 
O. Eugene Shaw.

* Week-End News, privately owned. Editor-in-Chief: 
C. Alexwyn Karpeh.


















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