Four people convicted in the beating death of a woman during what they said was an exorcism ritual on a remote Australian island were sentenced Friday to several years in jail.
Sarah Bara was beaten to death with sticks last year on Groote Eylandt off the northern Australian coast. Last month, Glenys Wurrawilya, Susie Wurrawilya, Paul Wurramara and Roderick Mamarika pleaded guilty to negligent manslaughter in connection with the beating, which several children witnessed.
Some of the accused had originally claimed that they beat Bara as part of an exorcism intended to cleanse her of the devil. But on Friday, Northern Territory Supreme Court Justice Peter Barr said the accused attacked Bara simply to cause her pain and humiliation.
"I am not satisfied that any of the accused thought she had the devil in her," he said.
On the day she was killed, Bara had been asked to find a bag containing medication for Susie Wurrawilya. When she couldn't find it, both Glenys and Susie Wurrawilya began to hit her. Bara was then forced to sit on the ground while a circle of fire was lit around her and was again struck with sticks. An autopsy found she had been hit with extreme force more than two dozen times.
Mamarika and Wurramara did not participate in the beating, but watched and did nothing to stop it, Barr said.
The four received sentences ranging from five years to seven-and-a-half years in jail.
Groote Eylandt, home to an Aboriginal and mining community of around 1,500, is about 30 miles (50 kilometers) from the northern Australia mainland.