A man accused of beheading a five-year-old boy as part of a witchcraft ritual has been thrashed and set on fire by enraged locals.

Tirumala Rao, 35, allegedly seized the child from a nursery inside a health centre and carried him to his house.

According to reports, he then performed a prayer ritual before cutting off the helpless boy’s head, collecting his blood in a vessel and sprinkling it all over his house.

The incident was discovered when the victim’s mother, named L Adilakshmi, went to collect her son from the nursery in Pokuru in Andhra Pradesh in south east India and found he had disappeared.

A family friend told her she had seen Rao take the child and the distraught woman was then said to have gone to Rao’s house with a group of villagers.

She found the beheaded body of her son in the corner of one room and his head in the other corner, next to the vessel of his blood.

According to the Indian Express , they then tracked down the accused, who had fled, tied him to a pole, doused him in kerosene and set him alight. As they lynched him the suspect was heard to have said he could bring the boy back to life.

He was found by police and taken to hospital for treatment, where he is in a critical condition.

According to The Hindu , the accused’s brother, Venkata Rao, revealed Rao had tried to attack him with a sickle in the past, and had parted ways with his wife as she could not put up with his odd behaviour.

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