Nearly all the residents of Koge watched as Julianna Gene and Kopaku Konia were dragged from their homes, to be hung from trees and tortured for several hours with bush knives. No one came forward to help. In the eyes of the villagers, the women were witches. They deserved to die.
"They used their powers to bewitch a man to death," said Kingsley Sinemane, a community leader. "We had to get rid of them, as they could have killed others. We had to protect our village."
A shocking increase in witch-hunt deaths in Papua New Guinea has prompted the government to launch a parliamentary commission of inquiry with a view to toughening the law. Joe Mek Teine, the chairman of the nation's law reform commission, has publicly declared that sorcery killings are "getting out of hand". Most witch hunts happen in the Highlands, the remote mountainous interior wracked by centuries of tribal wars and blood feuds. Contact with the outside world was only established in the 1930s, when some of the many ethnic groups were still living stone-age existences. Although there are no official statistics on sorcery killings, more than 50 were reported to the police in just two Highland provinces last year.