A Brazilian man confessed to putting more than 40 metal sewing needles into the body of a 2-year-old boy in what may have been a cult or religious act, media reported on Thursday.
The boy, whose condition is serious but stable, was being transferred on Thursday to a specialist medical centre in Salvador, the state capital of northeastern Bahia state, after doctors found two needles were dangerously close to his heart.
The boy was brought to a hospital in the remote town of Ibotirama by his mother last week after he complained of pain.
X-rays taken by doctors, and shown on Brazil's Globo news network's website, clearly show dozens of needles deep in his body, some clustered near his lungs and others in his abdomen, neck and legs.
According to Globo television, police in Ibotirama said that the boy's ex-stepfather, 30-year-old Roberto Carlos Magalhaes, had been arrested and confessed to putting the needles into the boy's body. They reportedly said he was helped by two women, one of whom was involved in a religious group.
Surgeons had planned to operate on the boy but cancelled the surgery after deciding it was too dangerous, Dr Fabio Contelle at the hospital in Barreiras town said in an interview with Globo TV. The boy was moved to Barreiras from the smaller hospital in Ibotirama after doctors realized the seriousness of his condition.
The A Tarde newspaper in Bahia quoted the boy's mother, Maria Souza Santos, as saying she suspected Mr. Magalhaes had been involved in some kind of "black magic."
"My son didn't like to go out with Roberto. I didn't think he was capable of doing something bad to him," she was quoted as saying.
Police in Ibotirama could not be immediately reached.
Bahia is the heart of African influence in Brazil, where many people practice Afro-Brazilian religions that combine spiritism, indigenous and African beliefs.