Sep 26, 2016

Wellington woman loses $75,000 to a witchdoctor

They promised her heaven but put her through hell, a Wellington woman says of witchdoctors who misused the "Gayatri" brand.
JOHN WEEKES
Stuff
September 26 2016

They promised her heaven but put her through hell, a Wellington woman says of witchdoctors who misused the "Gayatri" brand.

It started with a $10 palm reading, but within a few weeks, she lost $75,000 to a smooth-talking hustler, a Wellington woman says.

"They are so determined. They brainwash you completely. You are in their hands," the woman, who does not want to be named, warned.

The woman came forward after recent reports about witchdoctors in New Zealand. Her experienced suggested the faith healers worked in Wellington longer than previously reported.

Dr Pushpa Wood says con artist faith healers target desperate people and take advantage of blind faith
Dr Pushpa Wood says con artist faith healers target desperate people and take advantage of blind faith
One self-declared "world famous Indian astrologer" in 2013 was based in an Abel Smith St flat, near Cuba St.

The woman said she went to the witchdoctor and his wife for a palm reading after being handed a pamphlet at a street market.

She said the male witchdoctor was of South Indian origin, with a moustache and medium-length hair. He dressed inconspicuously when outside but wore yellow robes during ceremonies.

"They do wear priest's clothes in their house so you think they're good people."

They used incense, coconuts and flowers during ceremonies, and chanted "aum Kali, aum Kali," to the deity of the same name.

The couple forged a relationship with the woman, persuading her only they could rid her of evil spirits.

She said she was told one of her own children was in danger.

Soon the couple visited her house in suburban Wellington. The man noticed a dead bird outside, and said this was proof her house had a malevolent spirit.

Soon, the woman was too scared to be home alone, so the witchdoctor's wife came to stay with her.

"I was scared. I could not come into my house. They said 'there's a spirit in your house'."

The witchdoctors made increasingly dramatic predictions, spoke of sacrifices, then told her she had only a week to live.

Tormented and scared, she succumbed to demands, went to the bank, and handed over $25,000 cash.

She also handed over cash and jewellery worth another $50,000 later in 2013.

The witchdoctors left the country, but kept calling her.

On Monday, a man who answered one of the phone numbers said he had been to New Zealand, but only in 2008.

He said he did the shami pooja ritual, astrology and horoscope reading but not other practices of the kind advertised.

"There are some good people ... there are some bad people," he said when allegations of wrongdoing were put to him.

His service didn't offer refunds, but he urged the complainant to come to Bangalore.

The woman said she no longer believed in black magic but was angry at herself for losing so much money and wanted others to avoid the same fate.

NZ Skeptics spokeswoman Vicki Hyde said it might seem easy to blame the woman, but huge financial losses to "psychic" con artists weren't unusual.

"She doesn't deserve to be terrified, or taken advantage of."

A 2007 study found one local woman paid $13,000 to a psychic hotline to remove a bad spell.

Hyde said victims generally sought help with sex, family, money or health problems.

"People just want a better life for themselves. What we need to encourage is people to stop and think a bit critically about what they've been told."

Dr Puspha Wood of Westpac Massey Financial Education Centre said mediums used three frailties to exploit others: claiming they could communicate directly with deities, targeting desperate people and taking advantage of blind faith.

"My advice to people is have trust in your own ability to communicate directly with your god, whoever that may be."

 - Stuff


http://i.stuff.co.nz/national/crime/84653153/wellington-woman-loses-75000-to-a-witchdoctor
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