5 June 2012

Liberia: Woman, 75, Dies From Sassywood

Grand Gedeh — A 75-year-old woman identified as Martha Cooper has committed suicide by drinking sassywood in Grand Gedeh County.

Sassywood is a traditional concoction administered to suspected criminals during trial by ordeal, which has been outlawed by the Government of Liberia. The incident reportedly occurred Monday, June 4, 2012 at the border town of B'hai Jozon, about 9km from Toe Town.

Sources told our Grand Gedeh County correspondent the oldlady drank the concoction after she was accused by a Church prophet of being a witchcraft and allegedly responsible for the death of so many youngsters within the town.

The prophet, whose name has not been disclosed, reportedly performed ritual activities, including prayers over the weekend at some residential areas where he identified the victim as one of those witchcrafts, causing calamities in the town.

According to eyewitnesses, the late Martha Cooper went in the bush early Monday morning at about 3 A.M. where she gathered leaves to prepare the concoction for drinking to prove her innocence of the claim by the prophet.

When contacted, the commander of the police Emergency Response Unit in B'hai Jozon, inspector Nathaniel Briggs, Jr. said the police were not aware of the incident.

However Commander Briggs admitted to seeing the prophet delivering sermons, accusing the victim. He said surprisingly, elders of the town broke the news that one Martha Cooper has drunk the sassywood concoction and was dead.

Residents of the town told this paper that the victim had allegedly killed all of her sister's sons through witchcraft activities. A close relative said because of her involvement in witchcraft activities, the late Martha did not have a permanent home, not even a child of her own.

This is the second time in less than one month for a person to fall victim to the illegal act. A 70-year-old woman identified as Esther Baryon narrowly escaped death in Toe Town after going through similar ordeal.

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