Officers of Ondo State Police Command have arrested a 28-year-old woman, Mary Matthew, for allegedly caging a four-year-old foster daughter in a kiosk inside the bush for over five months in Imafon village in the Akure-South area of Ondo State.
Mary said she ‘quarantined’ the victim, identified as Precious Michael, when she suspected that she had witchcraft and was infected with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, which reportedly killed her mother last year.
The suspect, who was arrested in June, was said to be a relative of the late Precious’ mother. She reportedly brought the girl to Imafon in December 2015, after her mother died.
Parading the suspect at the headquarters of the command in Akure on Thursday, the state Commissioner of Police, Mrs. Hilda Harrison, said the suspect was arrested following a tip-off.
She said, "Mary and her husband, who alleged that the girl was possessed, decided to lock her outside the house. On receipt of the information, the personnel attached to the Juvenile Welfare Centre of the police command visited the scene and met the girl in the cage as reported.
"She (Precious) was immediately rescued and taken to the police clinic for medical attention, while the suspects are under interrogation and will soon be charged to court."
Harrison explained that the victim would be taken to the welfare home of the Ondo State Ministry of Woman Affairs and Social Welfare.
Mrs. Olayemi Ojumu (ASP), who led the team that rescued the victim, The Punch that Precious tested negative to HIV.
She said, "When we got to the village, we saw the girl with a swollen body. She was holding a loaf of bread. She had defecated on her body inside the cage where she was kept in the bush. They didn’t allow her to come out to live with them. They gave her food and water inside the cage.
"When we asked Mary about the condition of the girl, she told us that Precious’ mother died of HIV in Enugu State and she discovered that she (Precious) had been infected with HIV by her deceased mother. She said she did not want Precious to infect her own children and that was why she kept her in the cage."
The suspect, who admitted to have committed the offence, said she thought Precious was HIV positive and that was why she isolated her to avoid the spread of the virus in the village.
Mary, a farmer and an indigene of Enugu State, said she confined the victim to a corner in her shop, where she put her in the morning and released her in the evening whenever she came back from the farm.
She explained that she confined the victim to the shop because she noticed that the minor had swollen legs, a symptom which killed her mother.
"I would have taken her to the hospital for treatment but I had no money to pay for the medical bills," the suspect added.