Priest jailed for 30 years for murdering albino to sell body parts

Priest jailed for 30 years for murdering albino to sell body parts

June 28, 2022

Catholic priest is jailed for 30 years for murdering albino man in Malawi so his body parts could be sold on black market

  • A Malawi priest has been jailed for his part in the murder of a man with albinism
  • Catholic minister Thomas Muhosha had planned to traffic parts of the body
  • Thomas Muhosha, 22, was killed as it is believed albino body parts bring wealth
  • He was lured to his death by several men including his own brother in 2018 

A Malawi court on Monday sentenced a Catholic priest to 30 years in prison over the gruesome 2018 murder of a man with albinism, whose body parts he had planned to sell.

Judge Dorothy NyaKaunda Kamanga said Thomas Muhosha had planned to traffic 22-year-old MacDonald Masambuka’s tissue.

Mr Masambuka was violently killed in a graveyard after being told by people close to him that they had found him a potential wife and he should meet her.

He was reported missing in February 2018 and his body was discovered a month later, with the legs and arms had been removed.

Malawi is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for people with albinism, a lack of pigmentation in the skin, hair and eyes, because their body parts are used in magical potions and other ritual practices. 

In total, five people were jailed for life for murdering the man including his own brother.

Along with the priest, four others received a lesser sentence of 30 years in prison.

Malawi Catholic priest Thomas Muhosha and several other men have been jailed for killing MacDonald Masambuka, 22, who had albinism. Many in Malawi believe that albino body parts bring wealth and luck (Pictured: Malawi support group for people with albinism)

‘The offence was motivated by the disability of the deceased, that of albinism,’ she said in a ruling handed down in the city of Blantyre.

She said the priest, who led a parish in Machinga, 100 kilometres northeast of the country’s second city Blantyre, had breached the trust many had placed in him.

The killing occurred at the height of a spree that saw over 40 people with albinism murdered and scores of others assaulted.

‘The convicts took advantage of the deceased’s psychological need for love,’ the judge said.

‘They lured him into believing that they had found a prospective wife for him and that they should go and meet her – that ended up being his death trap.’

A total of 12 people were handed various sentences over the killing.

People with albinism in Malawi have been given personal alarms by police to help protect them

From 2014 Malawi suffered a wave of assaults against albinos, whose body parts were used in witchcraft rituals in the superstitious belief that they brought wealth and luck.

The number of reported crimes against people with albinism in Malawi is estimated to be over 170 cases, including more than 25 murders since November 2014.

In 2016 it was estimated there are around 10,000 albinos in Malawi.

The United Nations’ top expert on albinism has said people with the condition risk ‘extinction’ in Malawi due to relentless attacks fuelled by superstitions. 

In nearby Tanzania, a full set of albino body parts could sell for more than £50,000. 

Last year, following another murder of a man with albinism in the country, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa, Deprose Muchena, said: ‘This brutal murder is the latest reminder that Malawi remains a dangerous place for persons with albinism.

‘The Malawian government must protect this vulnerable group from murder, abduction and persecution, in a context where perpetrators are rarely held to account.’

To help address the concerns, the Malawi Police Service began distributing personal security alarms to help people with albinism fend off attackers.

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