The Tale of Richard Hoskins: A Life Most Cursed
A modern story of a criminologist caught up in witchcraft and child sacrifice
This piece was originally published in Man’s World magazine and reproduced here with the kind permission of the editor. You can read the magazine here. The article discusses similar cases and themes to an earlier piece about child witchcraft, but with a biographical focus and lots more interesting additional material.
It’s hard to imagine what a modern curse would look like today, how that would affect your life, but the story of criminologist and religious scholar Richard Hoskins comes as close as we might possibly get. His tale is one of almost unbelievable sorrow, witchcraft, murder and adventure, the kind of life one associates with an era gone-by. Hoskins’ biography touches on some of the most bizarre events in recent British history, from investigating Yoruba human sacrifice in London to VIP Satanic sex-rings. He has lost three of his children in tragic and disturbing circumstances and has undergone hormone therapy and the removal of his testicles through NHS gender affirmative care, an act he regrets. A haunted figure, a man half in touch with the supernatural and demonic. Let us explore this, a life most cursed.
Part One - Twins In The Congo
Hoskins was born in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire in 1964. His schooling led him to Sandhurst Military Academy where he gained a Special Short Service Commission in the 3rd Battalion of the Royal Anglian Regiment. Not much is known about his early life, but his story really begins when he married a medic, a woman called Sue, and went with her to the Congo in 1986. She was working for the church, providing basic medical care and vaccinations to the most rural communities and Hoskins was excited to be travelling and working alongside her, a great new adventure for a newlywed couple. Kinshasa was not what he expected - warned that Sue would be kidnapped at the local market and sold into slavery in Dubai and rattled by the flagrant aggression and corruption of the local regime thugs, he was pleasantly surprised when he landed in Bolobo, a small town on the Congo River in the western-most region of the country.
The local Bantu tribe, the Bateki, welcomed them both with open arms, teaching them to speak Lingala, how to pilot a dugout canoe and hunt with handmade muskets. Hoskins fully immersed himself in the culture and his work, installing a solar powered vaccine fridge and carving trails through the bush for their battered Land Rover. He learnt about the Congolese belief in kindoki, a form of low-level witchcraft which afflicted people from time to time and the nganga healers, who would restore ailments both physical and spiritual with herbal remedies and animal sacrifices. In 1987 Sue fell pregnant and both were troubled by the late scan which revealed twins, one positioned for a dangerous breech birth. Twins in the Congo, as in other parts of Africa, are both revered and feared, believed to be more in touch with the spiritual world. The eldest twin is always known as Mbo and the youngest as Mpia. Distressingly one twin was born dead, amid a frightening and primal labour, far away from the benefits of a hospital. The second twin, premature and sickly, miraculously survived the night. They named her Abigail.
They briefly returned to Britain in 1988, where Abigail was declared fit and healthy, but on returning to their work in Bolobo Hoskins learnt that the villagers were worried about their daughter. He was approached alone by a man called Tata Mpia, himself a surviving twin and given a warning:
‘But . . .what’s this to do with my Abigail? You said she was being called? What . . . what do you mean by that?’ ‘Ah.’ Tata Mpia nodded his head slowly. ‘She is a twin. She is a Mpia – a younger twin – like me.’ I felt the heat of Abigail’s fever on my own forehead. ‘Twins have a special power, Mr Richard. They call to each other and you must listen to their call. Mbo is calling your Mpia to come and join her in the shadowlands. I am sure of it.’ ‘Her twin sister? Calling her? But she’s—’ I stopped myself. ‘No, Mr Richard,’ Tata Mpia said gently. ‘Mbo is not dead. That is the thing I am trying to say to you. She is one of the living dead. And she is calling out to her twin sister, calling her to the world of the living dead.
His worst fears were to come true. Both Hoskins and his wife began to feel that something was wrong, they heard distressed voices calling out sometimes, Abigail seemed full of life but also haunted by something. As Hoskins recalls, in one of his most chilling anecdotes in an already unpleasant book:
‘Abigail?’ I stepped towards her. ‘What are you up to?’ She turned her head, and the expression on her small face – normally as bright as a new flower – made me stop dead and lifted the hairs on the back of my neck. There was something in her eyes I had never seen before. Something that made her look old beyond her years. Without a sound, she turned away from me to stare out of the window again. I realized then what held her attention so completely. This was the only point in the house from which it was possible to see the graveyard.
Tata Mpia urged Hoskins to find a nganga and have him perform a sacrifice, to placate the soul of his dead child, but Hoskins refused. He recounts watching a similar ritual and felt that he could not go down that path, no matter how tempting. Abigail died in her sleep shortly afterwards, peacefully and with no explanation. Hoskins was overcome with grief. Burying his second child next to the first with shaking hands he felt a hand on his shoulder, the village elder - ‘Mr Richard,’ he said, ‘now you are truly an African.’
The pair came back to the UK shortly afterwards, battling with their demons. Hoskins was privately tortured by the thought that he could have spared Abigail by ordering a sacrifice, he never told Sue about Tata Mpia’s suggestion. They attempted to salvage their lives and had another child, a boy called David in January of 1990. Despite this nascent familial bliss, they were drawn back to the Congo, where they continued working until the country became too dangerous for them to stay. In the autumn of 1991, an explosion of violence rocked the country, as rebel soldiers demanded their wages and went on a looting spree through Kinshasa. Sue and David fled to South Africa and were evacuated to Britain. Hoskins attempted to keep their medical centre running, but was forced to flee across the Congo River in a canoe, under a hail of bullets. Finding themselves back home again and with Sue expecting another child, they seemed to live in two worlds. Becoming ever more drawn into his faith, Hoskins successfully applied to Oxford to read Theology, but spent a month in 1992 helping the UN coordinate supply lines from Kinshasa to Bolobo. The UN offered him a job, working on the Congo-Rwanda border, as the country rapidly spiraled into warfare and mass murder. Wisely, he refused, and came back home to continue his studies. Their next daughter Elspeth was over a year old, and Hoskins was happy and relieved to dedicate himself to his studies. He achieved a doctorate from King's College London, but at this point he and Sue were practically strangers to one another. The intense grief, the travels and turmoil of their lives, combined with differing views on their religious convictions had resulted in them both retreating into their inner worlds. They divorced and separated when Hoskins was offered a lectureship in African religions at Bath Spa University in 1999. Despite having experienced enough grief and hardship to last a lifetime, Hoskins had no idea what the future had in store for him.
Part Two - The Boy In The River
It was an IT consultant on his way home from work who noticed him first. A strange dummy-like figure covered in a red-orange cloth. After realising what it was and phoning for the police he stood watching, as a team fished the torso of a young boy out of the Thames. He was missing his head, his arms and his legs and had been clothed only in a pair of girl’s shorts, bright orange in colour. The police were baffled. The pathologist identified him as a 7–8-year-old African male. His limbs and head had been expertly removed and his neck bore a strange surgical wound from back to front where he had been held upside-down and drained of his blood. Hoskins was a senior lecturer at this point, one of the few experts in Britain on African religious practices. He had started a new relationship with a student called Faith and the pair had moved in together after a research trip to his old stomping ground in the Congo. Scotland Yard was convinced the boy’s death was connected in some way to an African religious practice, they tossed out words like voodoo, juju and muti, a South African practice which, in its darkest forms, involved using the internal organs of a person for their medical and spiritual power. In the absence of any identification the police had named the boy Adam.
To do full justice to Hoskin’s involvement in the Adam case would be to rewrite his book, The Boy in the River, which details his specialist expertise and research into West African sacrificial practices. Adam was eventually identified as a Nigerian, based on the new technique of assessing bone and teeth isotopes, a first in British criminal history. His stomach revealed that he had been fed a vile potion, made up of charcoal, plants and animal bones. Significantly the forensic team discovered the potion contained the Calabar bean, a toxic legume which was traditionally used as a witchcraft ordeal in Nigeria and surrounding countries. If one vomited after ingestion they were guilty, if they died, they were innocent. In very small amounts the bean acted to paralyse and numb the victim. A gruesome picture was eventually painted of the boy’s fate. With his orange shorts and final deposition into the river, Hoskins could infer that the ritual was linked to the Yoruba people. The shorts themselves were only sold in Germany and Austria, providing a clue as to his movements before his death. It would seem that Adam had been somehow smuggled into the country, starved and then force-fed the paralysing concoction, before having his throat slit and his blood drained. His limbs and head were removed and kept, and his torso dressed and put into the Thames. Who committed this atrocity and why are unknown to this day. Despite the police travelling to South Africa and personally requesting Nelson Mandela’s help in broadcasting the crime, no developments or leads emerged.
For Hoskins this case was to resurface painful old memories, connecting the death of a child, Africa and sacrifice. His mental fragility became evident as he was bombarded with threats from angry Yorubans, furious he had mentioned their religion on the news in connection with the murder. He even had a teacher from Yorkshire phone him, shrieking that he was undermining ‘racial harmony’. His life with Faith became strained as he worked long hours, absorbed in memories and pain. One day she eventually confided that a souvenir African death mask they had bought on holiday together was causing her immense distress:
Just then Faith pushed the door ajar and peeped in. She looked uneasy. ‘You’re going to think I’m nuts. It’s that damned mask. There’s something weird about it.’ I’d never liked the Chokwe death mask. I’d been uncomfortable when Faith had seen it on a trader’s table in the Brazzaville market. It would have been shaped around a dead girl’s face so that whoever wore it thereafter might draw up the spirit of the deceased. It was strangely beautiful, but the first night we’d had it in the room with us we’d both had chilling nightmares. We’d hung it on the wall of our home in Bath, and occasionally, when I’d been working late, the thing had given me the creeps. ‘I put it up on my study wall when I unpacked,’she said. ‘And I’ve been getting blinding headaches ever since.’ She hadn’t told me before because she couldn’t see how her headaches could possibly have anything to do with the mask. But as soon as she took it out of the room, the headaches stopped. As an experiment, she’d passed the thing on to her mother, for whom it had no connotations. But her mother had started to have awful nightmares in which the mask featured, and now she wouldn’t have it in the house. ‘And she smells,’ Faith went on, ‘of wood smoke. She always did a bit. But sometimes it’s really strong. Almost choking.’ I didn’t like the way Faith had called the mask ‘she’, as if it had a personality of its own. That wasn’t something I wanted to consider.
Progress was slow on the Adam case, eventually a Yoruba woman called Joyce Osagiede was arrested in Glasgow. She was wanted in Germany for immigration crimes and her evidence led to a joint Italian, Irish and British police operation which busted an international child trafficking ring based out of Benin City in Nigeria, where Adam was from.
Part Three - Child Witches in London
By 2003 Hoskins was a man much in demand. Police forces across the UK began to call him for advice regarding any crime with a religious or occultic bent. He worked on the savage murder of Jodi Jones in Scotland, before being handed the case file for a Congolese child witchcraft case in London - Child B. The story of Child B is a disturbing glimpse into modern multicultural Britain: An Angolan war orphan, smuggled into the UK by her aunt and brutally tortured by her and her friends who believed she was possessed by kindoki. This wasn’t Hoskin’s tame jungle kindoki, this was a new and mutated form which had arisen in the darkness of the Congolese Civil Wars. Rather than kindoki being a diffuse but mostly mild form of bad spiritual energy, the new revamped version had blended with a sadistic form of Christianity, where children in particular were held to be possessed agents of the Devil. For 8-year-old Child B this meant her guardians had beaten her, tortured her with knives and rubbed chili pepper extract into her eyes, as well as refuse her all food and drink for days. For Hoskins this was to become his new reality, and he became obsessed with finding out exactly what was happening in London. His blood ran cold when a limp-wristed council lawyer phoned him and sheepishly asked if he would sanction a child being sent back to the Congo to undergo an exorcism. Incensed, he demanded the council pay for him to go to the exact church the child was destined for in Kinshasa. To his amazement, they agreed. In February of 2004 he flew out on an erstwhile fact-finding mission, discovering to his horror that the Congo he knew had been twisted into something unrecognisable. Tens of thousands of street children, some lying dead in the road, crowded the city. Churches were holding many of them in metal pens and sheds, having been abandoned by parents or taken in as orphans. They were starved, mistreated and forced to undergo violent and frightening ‘deliverance’ rituals, to cast out the demons. Hoskins returned again in 2005, this time with a camera crew, attempting to locate a small boy called Londres, who had disappeared from Britain. Despite nearly being torn apart by a mob during a street funeral, the team found the boy, but they could do little to help. With casework mounting in the UK, Hoskins was called to be an expert witness in the Child B case. His testimony that kindoki was a sincere belief, but one which had been warped over the past few decades, was instrumental in putting the accused behind bars.
In his fixation on child witches, his relationship with Faith began to crumble. Sensing it was near the end, he threw caution to the wind and abandoned his work, utterly despondent at the state of UK law enforcement and the reality of child suffering in the Congo. He sold their London flat and moved with Faith to Devon, near her parent’s farm, where they had a son in 2007 - Silas. Four happy years ensued, a scene of rural bliss, until a police officer managed to track him down in 2011. Another child had been murdered in London, they suspected it was a kindoki case. Unbeknownst to Hoskins, he was about to walk into possibly the worst case of child abuse in British criminal history - the torture and murder of 15-year-old Kristy Bamu. The Bamu children, Congolese in origin, had been invited by their eldest sister to come to London for Christmas. They arrived into a nightmare. Their sister’s boyfriend, Eric Bikubi, immediately accused the children of being witches. A three-day horror scene unfolded as Bikubi beat and starved the children until they confessed, but Kristy Bamu refused. After he wet the bed from sheer terror and panic, Bikubi turned his attention to the teenage boy. Forcing his siblings to help, he rained down on Kristy a frenzy of violence - knocking his teeth out with a hammer, shoving a metal bar down his throat, smashing ceramic tiles across his head, mutilating his ears with pliers. At the trial the court handlers had to use two trolleys to cart in the number of makeshift weapons used on the boy. Finally, Bikubi ordered the children into the bath where he granted Kristy’s last plea - “let me die”. He made his brothers and sisters sit on his chest until he drowned, whereupon he sprinkled them all with the water in an act of purification. At the trial the barrister noted the sibling’s disgust at their eldest sister’s refusal to intervene:
‘And then, when Kristy staggered across the room, blood pouring’– Altman paused, betraying his own distress for the first time – ‘all you could say to your own fifteen-year-old brother, who was dying in front of you, was, “Don’t sit on the sofa, or you might spoil it . . .”.’
Yet again Hoskins had been dragged into another case of Congolese witchcraft and the death of a child, he had been chained to the country and seemed fated to be gripped by its pain. In August of 2011 he returned, yet again, to Kinshasa, this time with another TV company to document the deteriorating situation of its children. After battling with a cold-hearted pastor to give a small toddler a glass of water, in defiance of the fast ordered by the church, he vowed never to return. He would again take the stand as an expert on Congolese religion in the Bamu trial, outraged that Bikubi was attempting to plead insanity as a defence. At this point in his story his autobiography ends, with a despairing reflection on the state of affairs:
I didn’t believe that Europe was just seeing a momentary overspill of misguided religious fundamentalism. Something much worse was beginning to flourish beneath the farcical ignorance and superficiality of the pan-European multicultural agenda. Children were being trafficked and used for benefit fraud, sold into sex slavery and subjected to physical and mental abuse. Porous national borders, splintered churches, broken family ties and a fundamental lack of understanding and communication amongst the relevant authorities had fostered a litany of depravity. Victoria Climbié, Child B and now Kristy Bamu were unlikely to be the only victims.
Part Four - Sex and Gender
So far, we’ve been following Hoskins’ life through his own published words, in his book. But his life after Kristy Bamu was anything but easy. What he didn’t mention in his book was the fate of his children from his first marriage. It appears that his son, David, was not a well man, and at age 19 had climbed an electricity pylon and touched the 33,000-volt cable. After 42 days in hospital Sue made the decision, alone it seems, to switch off his life support. Sometime after 2011 he and Faith also parted ways, leaving him fully alone with his thoughts. Hoskins, clearly a traumatised and broken individual, fell into the Youtube transgender rabbit hole and became convinced that taking estrogen might help him feel better. He purchased some from a dark web vendor based in Vanuatu. The side effects drove him to seek medical help and he was ‘fast-tracked’, in his own words, through the NHS gender clinic in 2015 and began to call himself Rachel. In 2016 he travelled to Bangkok and then to Malaysia, combining his own personal torments with his desire to track down and uncover child trafficking networks. He returned to Bangkok that December and paid £15,000 to a private surgeon to remove both his testicles. This clearly did not have the intended effect he hoped for, and despite being scheduled for a vaginoplasty in March 2017, he instead checked into the Nightingale clinic in London. There, he was finally diagnosed with severe post-traumatic distress, stemming from the death of his twins, his son and the police work he had been undertaking for nearly 20 years. Through intensive trauma counselling he began the process of detransitioning, taking male hormones and returning to his name - Richard. Writing in the Mail on Sunday:
For a decade, I ran and ran. I tried to escape my life, my very identity. I changed my gender to leave Richard and his life behind. Inspired by youthful images of smiling women, I grabbed the chance for a different life. I know I’m unusual and that few others have experienced the multiple traumas to have befallen me”
While not bitter, he wrote that he was incorrectly diagnosed by the NHS gender services and was never questioned as to why he wanted to change his sex. This is both revealing of how the transgender medical industry operates and of how complex trauma can lead to bodily dysmorphia. Tragically he will have to live the rest of his life on hormone therapy, an avoidable mistake.
As if this tale was not baffling enough, while he was in the process of transitioning towards his short time as ‘Rachel’, Hoskins was asked to consult on the confusing case of Operation Conifer by the Wiltshire Police in 2015. Operation Conifer was a national investigation into accusations made against former Prime Minister Edward Heath that he abused young children. This included a string of different allegations, and the final report documents inquiries into sex workers, use of maritime vessels, bodyguards and intelligence officers, amongst others. Hoskins was asked to work on a particularly lurid investigation based on the testimony of ‘Lucy X’, who gave a description of a satanic ritual during which Heath and other figures of authority abused a young boy on an altar, killed him and feasted on his body. The police were concerned that her testimony was rational, structured and ‘evidence-based’, and that it should be taken seriously. Hoskins ultimately dismissed the report, citing the controversial use of hypnosis and ‘memory-retrieval’ techniques by psychotherapists working with Lucy X. He chose to leak his findings to the press, believing that the police would ultimately bury or ignore his work. Whether or not one trusts Hoskins’ judgement at this time in his life, it is telling that he was allowed to work on such high-profile cases, given that he was obviously suffering from extreme mental distress. The total acceptance of transgender ideology within the senior ranks of the police services meant he was relied upon for his expertise at a time when he clearly needed help.
Hoskins continues to write for various publications, including the Mail on Sunday, and has clarified his position on transgenderism and the NHS, taking a moderately ‘gender-critical’ stance. It’s hard not to see his life as ultimately tragic, a man broken by the Congo and haunted by the spiritual world of its inhabitants. Death, the suffering of children, witchcraft, ritual sacrifice - these themes have attached themselves to him ever since he refused to perform the rites to save his child. Despite this, he has struggled and persevered to help bring an end to the scourge of modern witchcraft accusations and deaths, particularly in Britain, and has relentlessly pointed out the failings of a world with open borders, where children can be trafficked and tortured with impunity. No doubt he will find himself on the front lines of this battle again as cases of witchcraft continue to grow in England. He has never shaken whatever attached itself to him all those years in the jungles of central Africa, but maybe this is how some curses work, a man must suffer to see what he is made of, and what he might do with his life.