Kuala Lumpur - A 3-year-old Malaysian girl died of suffocation during a lengthy exorcism ritual in which seven family members and a maid piled on top of her, a police official said on Tuesday.
The ritual, which also included the child's parents, was held by the ethnic Chinese family late on Sunday in the northern town of Bukit Mertajam, local police chief Azman Abdul Lah said.
"Acting on a tip-off, police entered the house and broke down a bedroom door only to find eight people including a foreign maid covered with a blanket and with the victim pinned under them," he said.
"They were chanting in the room. Police believe they were involved in an exorcism ritual to drive away evil spirits."
The Star newspaper said the ritual had lasted 20 hours. Azman said the ritual had continued for many hours but could not confirm how many.
The eight suspects, aged between 16 and 67, have been detained and are being investigated for murder, he added. They included the family's Indonesian maid, the Star said.
The brother of the child's father had alerted the police, Azman said.
The others detained were the victim's grandmother, uncle, aunt, and two cousins.