(Investigator 161, 2015 March)


Women are still getting burned for witchcraft and other reasons. Joan of Arc (1412-1431) who suffered that fate in 1431 was neither the first nor the last.

In this article we'll begin with New Guinea. After that we'll consult a Google Search on the phrase "Burn Woman".


The Weekend Australian reported: "Amnesty International has renewed calls for an end to sorcery-related violence in Papua New Guinea following a report that six women were tortured with hot irons in an Easter ‘sacrifice.’" (April 6-7, 2013, p11)

Callick (2013) mentions: "The shocking death…of Kepari Lanieta, 20…the mother of an eight-month-old baby." Laniet was burned alive.

When a relative or tribal member dies in the New Guinea Highlands, locals want to know why. But most Highlanders are uneducated and untrained in scientific explanations. They believe, however, in spirits and believe that human sorcerers and witches can manipulate spirits. Therefore when tragedy strikes they suspect foul play by a witch or sorcerer.

That is what happened to Lanieta. A six-year-old boy died in a Mount Hagen hospital and his relatives blamed her and accused her of being a sorceress.

Neill (2013) writes: "PNG women are among the world’s most disempowered and abused… Studies quoted by the World Bank suggest more than half of PNG women have been raped, while two-thirds have suffered domestic violence."

In 2013 the PNG government introduced the death penalty for sorcery related killings in a bid to deter crimes against women.

Callick (2013) writes: "Killing a person who is accused of sorcery also now becomes a capital offence. The Sorcery Act of 1971, under which suspicion of sorcery mitigated the seriousness of violent crime, was repealed."

Further hope for PNG women is the rapid increase in female magistrates — a mere ten in 2007; 900 in 2013. They preside at many of PNG's 1600 village courts.


A Google search on the phrase "Burn Woman" produced a variety of headlines and burn situations. These are listed below with details for some of the headlines included:

Girl Sticks to Spiritual Tale
1 November 1928 Cornell Daily Sun

Lake Blue: Sticking steadfastly to a fantastic story of self-immolation as her life ebbed away in a Lake Forest Hospital, a 30-year-old woman tonight provided for the authorities an unfathomable mystery by her almost unbelievable tale of attempting to burn herself alive in the furnace of the Lake Bluff Village Hall to prove to herself her spiritual exaltation.
The woman, Miss Elfrieda Knaak, attractive book agent and Sunday School instructor and former University student and school teacher, was found yesterday in the basement of the Lake Bluff police station, her clothing burned and her arms and legs charred to the bone.
Her weird story of thrusting her legs into the live coals of the police station furnace to prove her faith in the spiritual has been doubted from the first by skeptical authorities and doctors who believe that no human being voluntarily could withstand such torture as she described.
But tonight Miss Knaak, knowing she was to die at any hour, still stood by her story.

Dastardly Attempt to Burn Woman Alive
16 July 1932 The Mail

SYDNEY. Ruby Ellis, aged 36…a married woman, was rushed to the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital tonight, following a dastardly attempt to burn her alive…
According to the police Mrs Ellis and her husband had a violent argument with a man who had sublet a room in the same house. The woman then dropped to the floor in a faint.
Her husband, who has only one arm, left the room to get her water. When he returned he found his wife…in flames. Nearby was an empty bottle of methylated spirits.
Mr. Ellis clutched his wife with one arm and dragged her into the street, a veritable human torch… The sickening smell of scorched flesh caused the crowd who had gathered to recoil from the horrifying sight…

Drug Dealers Burn Woman - Los Angeles Times
21 March 1988
An Oakland woman was listed in stable condition after being doused with gasoline and set afire by drug dealers

Attempt to burn woman alive, cop suspended
1 September 2007
Jaunpur: A woman was allegedly set on fire, following a property dispute in Meerganj area here today.

Villagers burn woman accused of being a witch
30 May 2008 
Bhubaneswar, India: An Indian woman accused of witchcraft was beaten, gagged and burnt to death in a remote eastern village…

Felony counts now filed in attempt to burn woman
20 June 2008
A man accused of trying to set a woman on fire outside Tucson Police Department headquarters has been arrested...

Husband, in-laws burn woman – Indian Express
25 October 2008
A woman, who was into five months of her marriage, was allegedly set on fire by her husband and in laws.

Supreme Court says those who burn woman should be hanged
1 Jun 2009 New Delhi

The Supreme Court on Monday came out with a strong verdict that, those who burn women to death for dowry should be hanged...
"You have burnt a woman to death by pouring kerosene. How can you do such a barbaric act? It is an uncivilised act. You should be hanged for the crime," a vacation Bench of Justices Markandeya Katju and Justice Deepak Verma observed.
A spurt in the number of dowry cases in which husbands and in-laws burn women to death are regularly reported from various parts of the country…
The apex court passed the observation while referring to Mahender Kumar Gulati, a convict in a bride burning case who has been refused bail.
Gulati's wife, Rajani, in her dying declaration had accused her husband, his elder brother Prem Kumar Gulati and sister in-law Rajani…

Too hot to handle: Swimmers burn woman
19 June 2011
A US sun worshipper claims she landed in the hospital with third-degree burns on her bust after the underwire in her two-piece bathing suit became overheated … on a 32C afternoon…

Man Dies While Trying To Burn Woman's Body
15 September 2011
Officials in Fulton County, Georgia say a man was killed last month by an explosion touched off when he tried to burn the body of his ex-girlfriend. Investigators say Sarone Bridges strangled 34-year-old Beverly Bland before the fire.

Woman Burned, Beaten After Meeting Couple on Chat Line
15 March 2012
Authorities say four people beat a woman and set her on fire after luring her to Philadelphia on a chat line.

In-laws burn woman alive for not bearing a son

11 April 2012 Express Tribune

€65,000 for burn woman who can't wear heels
23 May 2012
Irish Independent
A WOMAN has been awarded €65,000 after a court heard she cannot wear high heels because a hot water bottle split open in her bed scalding her.

Police foil bid to burn woman alive – The Hindu

1 June 2012

Teen tried to burn woman
16 August 2012
London Free Press

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) Gas cylinders burn woman
21 October 2012
A WOMAN has been burnt after two large gas cylinders caught fire behind a western Sydney corner store.

Four persons booked for bid to burn woman alive
2 November 2012

Icy Burn: Woman Divorces Husband After He Puts Icy Hot on Her Vibrator
3 January 2013

Mob 'tries to burn woman alive' after village council calls her a witch

14 January 2013
Members of a village council in rural India have been accused of trying to burn a woman alive after issuing a decree that she was a witch.
The incident in Junijhar village, Rajastan, is the latest in a string of controversies involving village councils known as Khap Panchayats.

Woman burns up after trying to burn a Hijab
4 February 2013
This took place in the southern part of India where a few women wanted to protest for the hijab. They tried to burn it but in a surreal way she burned up instead.

Husband, mother-in-law burn woman's private parts in bid to abort baby
6 March 2013

Southern militants shoot and burn woman alive

10 February 2014
The militants left a message by her charred body which reads "this is a reward for our three children killed by your people…"

Attempt to burn woman alive - Setopati
8 March 2014
Najarana Khatun, aged around twenty-six, wife of Gudu Ansari of Rajbiraj municipality-7 was set ablaze in an attempt to burn her alive…
She was rushed to hospital and admitted for treatment. Almost 90 per cent of her body was burnt, doctors said.

Man convicted of trying to burn woman alive
29 May 2014

Men Tie And Burn Woman To Death For Witchcraft
6 November 2014
A woman has been tied to a stake, shot with arrows and burned alive in Paraguay after being accused of witchcraft.

Bombs burn woman at Barisal
21 January 2015
A woman has been burnt by petrol bombs hurled at a bus in Jhalakathi.

Husband and in-laws Hang and Burn Woman to Death
16 February 2015
A mother of a 3-month-old baby was hanged and burnt to death by her husband and in-laws for not meeting their demand of more dowry...


Callick, R. The Weekend Australian, February 9-10, 2013, p. 11.

Callick, R. The Australian, May 29, 2013, p8

Neill, Rosemary Ladies dispense tough justice, The Weekend Australian, June 29-30, 2013, p. 24

(Author's name withheld)