SYDNEY – A manhunt was under way Sunday after 49 prisoners, including a cult leader known as “Black Jesus” who is suspected of cannibalism, broke out of a Papua New Guinea jail.
The escape happened from a prison in Madang in the east, with convicted rapist Stephen Tari among those that got away.
Tari, a failed Lutheran pastor, was found guilty in 2010 of raping girls who belonged to his Christian-based sect and sentenced to up to 10 years.
He had thousands of village followers, including a core of armed warriors to protect him, in a “cargo cult.” As part of his “culture ministry,” he preached that young girls were to be “married” to him, as it was God’s prophecy.
When he was captured in 2007, there were widespread allegations that his cult also practiced cannibalism and sacrificial blood rituals.
PNG is a sprawling nation where black magic, sorcery and cannibalism sometimes occur. Last year, police arrested dozens of people linked to an alleged cannibal cult that was accused of killing at least seven people, eating their brains raw and making soup from their penises.
In 2011, a man reportedly was found eating his screaming, newborn son during a sorcery initiation ceremony.