An Indian "witch doctor" who beheaded an 11-year-old boy and offered the head as a sacrifice to a goddess to improve his fortunes has been sentenced to death, police said Tuesday.
A local court in impoverished Chhattisgarh state in central India convicted 32-year-old Dilip Rathia on Monday of murder and sentenced him to hang for beheading the boy, police said.
"We proved the man beheaded the boy and his head was offered to the local goddess to obtain better luck," investigating officer Praful Thakur told AFP by telephone.
The case, which highlights the persistence of occult beliefs in remote areas, came to light when police found the child's headless skeleton in the tribal-dominated village of Barpali in Raigarh district, 195 kilometres (121 miles) northeast of state capital Raipur.
Forensic tests proved the skeleton was that of an 11-year-old boy named Praveen who disappeared in February 2012 while visiting a village fair, Thakur said.
Police, acting on a tip-off, raided the home of a man said by locals to be a "witch doctor" where they found the child's head.
The man was "practising witchcraft" and "was convicted on charges of murder, hiding evidence and giving false information to conceal the offence", local police official Rahul Bhagat told AFP.
Human sacrifices in deeply religious and superstitious India usually occur in poorer areas where some people fear and revere practitioners of so-called black magic.
The victims are ritually killed by witch doctors to please or appease deities.
In a recent widely-publicised case of suspected child sacrifice, the bodies of a two-year-old boy and a six-year-old girl were found at a home in the industrial town of Bhilai in Chhattisgarh in November 2010.
Seven months before that, the decapitated body of a factory worker was found in a temple in the eastern state of West Bengal.
[Image via Agence France-Presse]