Dismissed as a moral panic in the late 1990s, during the 1980s and 90s allegations of satanic ritual abuse (SRA) appeared throughout the world, spread by English as a common language and conferences and documents presented therapists, social workers, religious fundamentalists and law enforcement officials. Some of the cases have included prosecution and imprisonment. Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States have had several incidents of alleged SRA which received national and international news coverage. Other countries have also had isolated events in which abuse or murder took place with satanic ritual elements, including Argentina and Brazil.


Perth, Western Australia

In 1991, police in Perth linked Scott Gozenton, a self-professed Satanist, with organized child sexual abuse. His lawyer claimed 13 satanic covens existed in the area, holding bizarre orgies involving children, and that Gozenton had been followed and threatened by "coven" members throughout the court proceedings.[1]

Melbourne, Victoria

In 2001, the Melbourne diocese of the Roman Catholic Church acknowledged as "substantially true" allegations that a Melbourne priest took part in Satanic ritual abuse in which a number of deaths occurred in the 1960s, and paid compensation to a surviving victim.[2]

Central Coast, New South Wales

In 1999, two journalists from the Sun-Herald claimed to have seen evidence of the ritual abuse of children. They interviewed six mothers whose children had disclosed experiences of SRA and organised abuse in New South Wales. The children's disclosures were corroborating, although they had never met one another, and they had been able to draw representations of "satanic" ritual sites which were similar to ritual sites uncovered by police on the central coast of New South Wales. One mother stated that her sons remembered being drugged and hypnotised. "He said they dressed in black robes and had eye and mouth pieces cut out," she said. "I know they're pretty dangerous people. I have had warnings outside the house telling me to stop investigations. We're fearful for our lives. The boys never want me out of their sight.".[3]


During the investigation of a Belgian serial killer Marc Dutroux, a number of women approached police claiming to be adult survivors of a network of sexual offenders.[4] One witness described of satanic ceremonies with a goal of disorienting new victims, causing them to doubt the reality of their memories and prevent disclosure.[5]



In 2007, a jury at Dublin Country Coroner's court unanimously ruled that the infant found stabbed to death over three decades ago belonged to Cynthia Owen.[6] The Minister of Justice had previously rejected a request by Cynthia Owen to have the body of the child exhumed, a decision Ms. Owen did not contest.[7] The inquest was prohibited from assigning blame due to the Coroners Act of 1962 and therefore returned an open verdict.[8] Also, the jury was instructed that the standard of proof was not the "beyond a reasonable doubt" benchmark of criminal trials, but rather the lessor standard of determining whether Owen's claims were true based "on the balance of probabilities".[8] Ms. Owen made claims about a stillborn second child buried in the family garden, but police found no human remains after digging up the plot.[9][10] Owen's parents, as well as her older siblings, deny her allegations of abuse.[11]

During the trial, Owen provided her account of incest, organised abuse, and satanic ritual abuse orchestrated by her parents involving at least nine other men and her account was supported by her psychologist.[12] She claimed that her brother and sister Michael and Therese were also abused, a charge that was denied by her older brother and father. Michael disappeared in 2002 and Therese committed suicide shortly after the discovery of his body in 2005; Therese's detailed 37-paged suicide note corroborated Cynthia's account.[11] A friend of Therese's testified at the trial, stating that Therese had spoken to him at length about her sexual abuse in childhood.[13]

Following the findings of the Coroner's Court, Owen has raised questions regarding the disposal of her daughter's body and the failure of the police to investigate the murder. In particular, she has highlighted the fact that no blood or tissue samples were kept, that the bag and sanitary towels found alongside the murdered child have gone missing, that the records of the first inquest into the murder have gone missing, and that her daughter was buried in a mass grave alongside other infants.[11] Owen claimed that the police knew about the murder and did nothing.[14] She also stated that she felt robbed of justice by her mother's natural and peaceful death.[14]

Owen's father and three of her sisters won the right to appeal the findings of the inquest from the High Court. The family claimed that the coroner was biased toward Owen, shielded her when giving evidence and was selective in the evidence presented to the jury.[15] According to recent reports, the case of the murdered child remains the subject of an ongoing investigation by the garda.[16]


In 1998, six adults in Emilia-Romagna were arrested with allegations of prostituting their children and the production of child pornography. The children were also reported to be involved in satanic rituals.[17] In 2002, four people were arrested for "satanism and paedophilia" in Pescara. Police believed that the group may have abused dozens of children in rituals involving bodies stolen from ceremonies.[18]

In April 2007, six people were arrested for sexually abusing fifteen children in Rignano Flaminio. The suspects were accused of filming the children engaged in sexual acts with 'satanic' overtones.[19]

The Netherlands

In 1989 a group of parents published allegations in a conservative magazine that their children had witnessed SRA and had been ritually abused from May, 1987 until October 1988 in Oude Pekela, a city in the north-eastern province of Groningen, the Netherlands. During the initial investigation, only the non-ritual aspects were reported in the press and investigated by the authorities and the allegations were unconfirmed. In 1989 the conservative Christian news program Tijdsein reported allegations that included satanic ritual abuse, to which there was no official response. After attending a conference in which the concept of satanic ritual abuse was discussed, Oude Pekela general practitioners Fred Jonker and Ietje Jonker-Bakker alleged that several children had been abused by unknown men in the context of satanic rituals. This was first reported in a lecture at the Institute of Education of London University and later published in several academic journals in both English and Dutch,[20][21] but their findings were heavily criticised by American and Dutch scholars.[22][23][24][25] National authorities were informed in 1991 and 1992 of the allegations, though no action was taken until the press was informed.[26][27][28] The State Secretary of Justice responded to the allegations by appointing the Werkgroep Ritueel Misbruik multidisciplinary workgroup to study SRA in the Netherlands, which produced a report in 1994.[29] The report concluded that it was unlikely SRA had occurred or the allegations were factually true, suggested the allegations were a defence mechanism produced in part by suggestive questioning by 'believing' therapists, and that the stories were contemporary legends dispersed through a network of therapists and patients who were concerned with dissociative identity disorder.[29]

South Africa

Van Rooyen case

In 1990, Gert van Rooyen and his accomplice were accused of murdering several young girls, ultimately committing suicide while running from the police.[30] One of the accused's stepson was later himself accused of murdering a Zimbabwean girl in 1991; the same son claimed his father's victims were involved in international child pornography rings, slavery and Satanism ritual, claims which were partly corroborated with further investigation.[31]The case was so similar to crimes committed by Marc Dutroux that multiple agencies investigated a possible international smuggling ring in prostituted children and body parts.[32]

United Kingdom

There have been a number of cases in the United Kingdom in which SRA has been alleged. Some of these cases have garnered significant media attention, and they are listed below.

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children document allegations of ritual abuse in 1990, with the publication of survey findings that, of sixty-six child protection teams in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, fourteen teams had received reports of ritual abuse from children and seven of them were working directly with children who had been ritually abused, sometimes in groups of twenty.[33] An investigation into SRA allegations by the British government produced over two hundred reports, of which only three were substantiated and proved to be examples of pseudosatanic, in which sexual abuse was the actual motivation and the rituals were incidental.[34][35]


The Cleveland child abuse scandal featured allegations of SRA.[36]


In 1990 there was a case in Rochdale which around twenty children were removed from their homes by social services who alleged the existence of SRA after discovering 'satanic indicators'. No evidence was found of satanic apparatus' and charges were dismissed when a court ruled the allegations were untrue. The children who were removed from their homes sued the city council in 2006 for compensation and an apology.[37]


In 1990-1991 nine children suspected of being sexually abused by their families and an alleged child abuse ring were removed by social services in Orkney. The abuse was also alleged to involve "ritualistic elements".[38] The parents approached the media and made the case national and international news. In April 1991, a sheriff ruled that the evidence was seriously flawed and the children were returned home.[38]

In June, social services appealed the sheriff's ruling[39] but the the appeal was overturned and an official inquiry was established in August 1991, which after nine months' investigation at a cost of £6 million, published its report in October 1992. It described the dismissal of the first judgment as "most unfortunate" and criticized all those involved, including the social workers, the police, and the Orkney Islands Council. Social workers' training, methods, and judgment were given special condemnation, and the report stated that the concept of "ritual abuse" was "not only unwarrantable at present but may affect the objectivity of practitioners and parents".[40][41] A 1994 government report based on three years of research found that there was no foundation to the many claims of Satanic abuse.[38]


In October, 1987 children were removed from their families in Nottingham, and in February, 1989 a Broxtowe family was charged with multigenerational child sexual abuse and neglect. A 600-page report on the incident concluded that there was no evidence of the SRA claims made by children or corroborating adults. Though the children may have been 'sadistically terrorized', allegations of organized satanic abuse were found to be baseless and the indicators used by the Social Services department were without validity.[42]


In 2003 allegations by three children in Lewis, Scotland resulted in the arrest of eight people for sexual abuse occurring between 1990 and 2000. A 2005 investigation by the Social Work Inspection Agency found extensive evidence of sexual, physical and emotional abuse and neglect.[43] Police investigation resulted in allegations of an island-wide "Satanic paedophile ring",[43][44] though charges were dropped nine months later following an inconclusive investigation.[43][44]

A key witness who had implicated her family in the abuse and whose evidence was "vital" to the case of satanic abuse recanted her testimony in 2006[44][45] and the media raised questions about the nature of the police interviewing techniques.[44][45] with a police spokesperson replying that the witness was questioned appropriately and that allegations were made by numerous witnesses.[45]

United States

In the United States, major allegations of Satanic ritual abuse occurred in the Kern County child abuse cases, McMartin preschool trial and the West Memphis 3, which garnered world-wide media coverage.

Jordan, Minnesota

The first such case occurred in Jordan, Minnesota, in 1983, where several children made allegations against an unrelated man and their parents. The man confessed and then identified a number of the children’s parents as perpetrators. Ultimately twenty four adults were charged with child abuse though only three went to trial with two acquittals and one conviction.[46] Despite strong medical findings of sexual assault, all other charges were dropped after the young child witnesses decompensated under the duress of the criminal trial.[47]

During the investigation, the children made allegations regarding the manufacturing of child pornography, ritualistic animal sacrifice, coprophagia, urophagia and infanticide, at which point the Federal Bureau of Investigation was alerted.[48] No criminal charges resulted from the FBI investigation, and in his review of the case, the Attorney General noted that the initial investigation by the local police and county attorney was so poor that it had destroyed the opportunity to fully investigate the children’s allegations.[49]

Judge Antonin Scalia referred to the Minnesota case in his summation on a later case, and stated, "[t]here is no doubt that some sexual abuse took place in Jordan; but there is no reason to believe it was as widespread as charged," and cited the repeated, well-intentioned but coercive techniques used by the investigators as damaging to the investigation.[46] The bizarre allegations of the children, the ambiguities of the investigation and the unsuccessful prosecutions were widely covered by the media. A number of accused parents confessed to sexually abusing their children, received immunity, and underwent treatment for sexual abuse, while parental rights for six other children in the case were terminated.[50]

Hosanna Church, New Orleans

In December, 2007 Austin Trey Bernard was found guilty of raping his son and daughter, convicted despite a not guilty plea on the basis of three previous confessions and a detailed diary of his actions.[51] The allegations came to light upon the confession of one of the defendants.[52] Bernard confessed to sexual abuse of the children as well as satanically-themed ritualistic abuse including the use of animal parts and blood.[53] The room had been decorated with pentagrams that were partially destroyed[54] song lyrics and Bible verses.[53]

See also


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  2. Gary Hughes, Church pays victim of sex and death rituals: Priest's satanic life, Herald Sun, 26 May 2006
  3. Miranda Wood and martin Chulov, Evil In The Woods, The Sun Herald, 8 August 1999, p 7
  4. Kelly, Liz (1998). "Confronting an atrocity: The Dutroux case" (pdf). Trouble & Strife (CWASU: Child & Woman Abuse Studies website) 36. 
  5. Bulté, A; de Coninck, D (1998-01-10). "Interview With Regina Lou, Witness XI at Neufchateau". Retrieved 2008-08-13. 
  6. Senior Counsel to examine Cynthia Owen's case. RTÉ, 25 February, 2007.
  7. Woman will not challenge McDowell decision. RTÉ, 9 June, 2006.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Cynthia Owen mother of baby girl: verdict. RTÉ, 16 February, 2007.
  9. 'Mother' of dead baby welcomes move to exhume. The Independent, June 07, 2006.
  10. McDowell will reject request to exhume stabbed baby. The Independent, June 08, 2006.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Jim Cusack,A horrifying past that society seems unable to confront, The Independent, June 11, 2006
  12. Darren Boyle, Alleged Abusers 'still risk'
  13. Breaking News, Childhood sex abuse caused woman's suicide, inquest told, September 30, 2006
  14. 14.0 14.1 'My mother's death robbed me of justice for my baby'. The Independent, November 08 2006.
  15. Family win leave to appeal Owen verdict. The Irish Times, 14 May, 2007.
  16. 'Mother's surprise that garda probe into infant's death is ongoing'. The Tribune, April 04 2008.
  17. Buckley, Kevin (1998-11-15). "Children 'rented out' for satanic sex abuse". Scotland on Sunday. p. 21. 
  18. "Italians arrested for satanism and child abuse". Agence France-Press. 2002-10-16. 
  19. Owen, Richard (April 26, 2007). "Grandmothers arrested over satanic sex abuse at school". TimesOnline. Retrieved 2007-08-16. 
  20. Jonker, F.; Jonker-bakker, P. (1991). "Experiences with ritualist child sexual abuse: a case study from the Netherlands". Child Abuse and Neglect 15: 191–196. Retrieved 2007-10-20. 
  21. Jonker F & Jonker-Bakker I (1994). "Onderzoek in Oude Pekela". Maandblad Geestelijke volksgezondheid 49 (3): 251–276. 
  22. Beetstra, T A (2004). "Massahysterie in de Verenigde Staten en Nederland: De affaire rond de McMartin Pre-School en het ontuchtschandaal in Oude Pekela". in Burger P & Koetsenruijter W (Eds.) (in Dutch) (PDF). Mediahypes en moderne sagen: Sterke verhalen in het nieuws. Leiden, Stichting Neerlandistiek Leiden. pp. 53–69. 
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  26. Fauwe, L (1993-06-12). "Ritueel misbruik van kinderen voor satan". Het Parool. 
  27. Aanhangsel tot het Verslag der Handerlingen van de Eerste/Tweede Kamer der Staten-General, II, 1992-1993 
  28. Nel Draijer; Suzette Boon (1993). Multiple Personality Disorder in the Netherlands: A Study on Reliability and Validity of the Diagnosis. Aa Balkema. ISBN 90-265-1361-5. 
  29. 29.0 29.1 Werkgroep Ritueel Misbruik (1994), Rapport van de Werkgroep Ritueel Misbruik, Den Haag: Ministerie van Justitie, Directie Staats- en Strafrecht, pp. 65–66  in Dutch
  30. "The sins of the father: a dark legacy". Independent Online (South Africa). 2007-04-08. Retrieved 2008-01-23. 
  31. "Police take down paedophile's "house of horrors" brick by brick". Agence France-Presse. 1996-05-13. 
  32. "South African police probe possible body-part smuggling ring". Agence France-Presse. 1996-08-21. 
  33. Libby Jukes and Richard Duce, NSPCC says ritual child abuse is rife, The Times, 13 March 1990
  34. La Fontaine, J S. (1994). The extent and nature of organised and ritual abuse: research findings. London: HMSO. ISBN 0-11-321797-8. Retrieved 2008-04-29. 
  35. LaFontaine, J. S. (1998). Speak of the Devil: allegations of satanic abuse in Britain. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521629349. 
  36. Lafontaine, 1998, p. 18
  37. Lewis, Paul (2006-01-12). "'Satanic abuse' case families sue council for negligence". The Guardian.,,1684205,00.html. Retrieved 2007-10-23. 
  38. 38.0 38.1 38.2 Thompson, Tanya (2006-09-11). "Orkney abuse scandal victim to sue for lost youth". The Scotsman. Retrieved 2007-11-21. 
  39. "1991: Orkney 'abuse' children go home". BBC News "On This Day". 
  40. Bennett, Gillian (2005). Bodies: Sex, Violence, Disease, and Death in Contemporary Legend. University Press of Mississippi. pp. 287. ISBN 1578067898. 
  41. Lord Clyde (1992), The Report of the Inquiry into the Removal of Children from Orkney in February 1991, Edinburgh: Office of Public Sector Information, pp. 349 
  42. Thorpe, W.; Gwatkin, J.B., Glenn, W.P. & Gregory, M.F. (1990-06-07), Revised Joint Enquiry Report, Nottinghamshire Social Services,, retrieved 2007-10-23 
  43. 43.0 43.1 43.2 Crawford, Alan (2005-10-09). "Three children on the Isle of Lewis were sexually abused for years". The Sunday Herald. Retrieved 2007-11-13. 
  44. 44.0 44.1 44.2 44.3 Martin, Lorna. "Satanic abuse key witness says: I lied". The Guardian.,,1879884,00.html. Retrieved 2007-08-21. 
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  46. 46.0 46.1 Scalia, Antonin; Brennan, William, Marshall, Thurgood and Stevens, John Paul (1990-06-27). "Supreme Court Collection at Cornell University Law School". Retrieved 2007-10-23. 
  47. Satterfield, S. (1985). "The legal child abuse in the Jordan, Minnesota, sex ring case". Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law. Albuguergue, NM. 
  48. Hechler, David (1988). The battle and the backlash: the child sexual abuse war. Lexington, Mass: Lexington Books. ISBN 066914097X. 
  49. Humphrey, Herbert (1985), Report on Scott County investigations, Minneapolis, MN: Minnesota Attorney General's Office 
  50. Faller, K.C. (2004). "Sexual Abuse of Children: Contested Issues and Competing Interests". Criminal Justice Review 29 (2): 358. Retrieved 2007-10-23. 
  51. "First charged in devil worshiping rituals convicted". The Associated Press. 2007-12-04. 
  52. Grinberg, Emanuella (2005-08-03). "Claims of brainwashing, child abuse and a cult-like sex ring to be aired in court". Court TV. 
  53. 53.0 53.1 Ellzey, Don (November 30, 2007). "Agents graphically describe abuse". Hammond Star. Retrieved 2008-04-13. 
  54. RICK LYMAN (May 25, 2005). "Sex Charges Follow a Church's Collapse". New York Times. 
This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at List of satanic ritual abuse allegations. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

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