Media voodoo

  • 25 October 2006
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When Farah Swaleh Noor's dismembered body was found last year, the media cried 'voodoo', despite a lack of evidence. By Colin Murphy

The discovery of the dismembered corpse of a black man in Dublin's Grand Canal in April 2005 (pictured) provoked a series of reports about the likelihood that this was an African "voodoo" or "muti" killing. The Central Criminal Court has recently heard that two Irish women, Charlotte and Linda Mulhall, said in statements to gardaí they had killed and dismembered the man, Farah Swaleh Noor. Farah Swaleh Noor was in a relationship with their mother, which they have alleged was abusive. Both women have pleaded not guilty to his murder.

The Sunday People headlined an article on the case on 10 April 2005: "Voodoo killer stalks Ireland". "Gardaí now believe a crazed voodoo killer is on the loose in Ireland," the article continued.

"One theory being investigated by cops is that the heads [of dismembered bodies] are being used as cups from which to drink the blood of the victim."

The paper reported that gardaí believed the case could be linked to the murder of Malawian woman Paiche Onyemaechi, whose headless body was discovered in Kilkenny in July 2004. Gardaí later discounted that theory.Body by the river

The Sunday Independent also reported that gardaí believed the murder bore the "hallmarks of ritual killing" and compared it to the discovery of the dismembered corpse of an unidentified African boy which was found in the Thames in London in 2001.

The News of the World called the killing "the 'voodoo' case" in a headline. The Mirror described it as a "cult killing".

The Irish Independent of 9 April 2005 covered the case in a story headlined: "Have muti killers left their grisly mark?" The story said the victim was "dismembered in a way which rarely, if ever, happens in Irish homicides". "So-called 'multi' murders have been a dark and sinister feature of life in parts of sub-Saharan Africa since time unknown. They still occur with shocking frequency."

In that article, an unidentified garda was quoted saying the possibility of the killing being a ritual murder was "not our main line of enquiry", though it was "something that you have to consider".

At time of going to print, the jury was due to rise to consider its verdict in the trial.