Three people, including a pastor, have been arrested in connection with the murder of two 9-year-old girls who were severely beaten, KwaZulu-Natal police said in a statement on Thursday.
The three people, including the mother of one of the girls, were arrested this week after a two-month investigation into the children's death in Ezinambeni, outside Nkandla, central KZN. Police have not yet established whether the other girl was related to them although she lived with the family.
The third person who was arrested is believed to be related to the family.
Police spokesperson Colonel Thembeka Mbele said police received an anonymous call on 24 March from someone who informed them that "something sinister was unfolding" at a house in Ezinambeni.
Officers found the girls laying on the floor and they had "bruises all over their bodies". One of the girls was dead and the other was unconscious and was rushed to hospital.
Mbele said relatives were initially opposed to officers' arrival at the house, but later told police the children had been "attacked by evil spirits".
The colonel added that the family members claimed that in response to the so-called attack by "evil spirits" they beat up the girls "as a form of exorcism".
"A local pastor was also called to pray for the girls and he also allegedly joined in the beating of the girls. Prior to the arrival of the police, the family had taken the deceased girl to the traditional healer after beating her. The traditional healer could not do anything for her because she was already deceased and he brought back the body to the family," said Mbele.
The second girl died in hospital several days later.
Mbele said the case took a twist when detectives found that in 2015, another girl in the family died "under mysterious circumstances" and she was hurriedly buried without any authorities being notified.
"It is also suspected the same was going to happen to these young girls because according to the investigations, the family had not reported their situation to anybody, except for the pastor."
Mbele said police were also investigating the 2015 death.
The three people who were arrested are expected to appear in a local court on Monday.