Discovery of an African boy’s headless and limbless body in River Thames leads to arrests of 21 syndicate members
The Straits Times (Singapore), Aug. 4, 2003
By Alfred Lee
LONDON – It was a nightmarish and gruesome find: the body of a young boy with his head, arms and legs all chopped off and missing, floating in the River Thames near London’s famous Tower Bridge.
Scotland Yard police could only guess that the boy was aged between four and seven and given the name Adam.
The torso, which had deep knife wounds, was clad in only a pair of pink shorts.
An examination of Adam’s stomach contents showed he had been fed a small, mysterious pancake of fine gold dust, crushed clay and powdered bones before he was killed.
Laboratory tests are being used to determine if the bones were human or animal.
Adam was a black African. Amazing forensic detective work, focusing on traces of minerals in his body, revealed that he came from a 150km stretch of land in Nigeria, near Benin City.
Scientists also concluded that the boy had lived for at least two weeks in London before his death, because they found pollen from flowers common around the capital in his remains.
Top detectives flew to Africa and spoke to witch doctors, tribal chiefs, voodoo practitioners, village elders, Nigerian police and other authorities, telling them what they had found out about Adam.
Everybody agreed that all the evidence pointed to a ritual killing in which the boy was slaughtered, probably by African criminals who thought the sacrifice would bring them good fortune and protect their underworld activities.
In the past, similar murders had been carried out in Nigeria and other parts of Africa.
Young boys or girls were sacrificed on stone slabs after being fed a cocktail of gold, bones and earth, their limbs and heads severed during the execution and the remaining part of their bodies covered in bright-coloured clothes for good luck.
But who could have brought Adam to London to meet his grisly end?
This week, 200 police officers, many armed and wearing riot gear, raided nine houses in south and east London and arrested 21 Africans suspected of smuggling children – possibly including Adam – into Britain.
Among the evidence seized were the skull of an animal with a nail driven through it, powdered white substance which could be crushed bones, and pots of earth.
Detective Inspector Will O’Reilly, who led the arrests of the Africans – many of them from Benin City – said: ‘We believe that these men are part of a criminal network involved in smuggling children into Britain.
‘We have evidence that hundreds of children are being trafficked every year and the figure could easily be in thousands.
‘They are being used as unpaid domestic slaves, unwilling prostitutes, sex slaves for private individuals and as a means of obtaining housing and social security payments from the government.
‘We fear that some are brought into Britain for ritual slaughter. Adam was one of them – and we wonder how many other bodies are buried, never to be discovered.’
Mr David Bell, executive director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) UK, told The Straits Times: ‘The number of children being trafficked to Britain has grown to thousands a year, with victims coming from West Africa, eastern Europe and Asia. It is now easier to traffic children into Britain than to smuggle drugs.
‘This country has become the target of child-smugglers because, astonishingly, child trafficking is a crime only if it is carried out for sex exploitation.
‘Our End Child Exploitation Campaign wants Britain to close this loophole and make it illegal to traffic a child for any purpose.’
Unicef UK investigators and police are aware of children brought by traffickers to Britain from countries including Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Romania, Bosnia, Thailand and Cambodia.
Children are usually found in major cities such as London, Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham, but Unicef UK says that in recent months, they have been discovered in Newcastle and Nottingham, indicating that traffickers are widening their operations.
Many of the children had been sold to traffickers by money-hungry parents while others were just grabbed off the streets or stolen from care homes after they were found abandoned.
Scotland Yard says that traffickers often accompany the children, warning them to stay silent at immigration desks.
Innocent boys and girls, usually aged from 12 to 16 and invariably poorly educated, are threatened that they will be struck by lightning, fed to lions or cursed forever if they talk to the authorities.
For others, they get a warning from the traffickers that their young friends or relatives back home will be murdered if they open their mouths.
Apart from being used for sexual purposes, trafficked children have been found working like slaves for long hours with little or no pay in private homes, clothing sweatshops and restaurants and on farms.
In London, police over the past year have rounded up scores of trafficked children – mainly from eastern Europe – who have been trained as beggars or pickpockets.
Once taken into protective custody, the youngsters are given medical examinations and new clothes and put into care institutions.
When their parents or families back home are located and found to be reliable, the children are sent home.
Some whose origins cannot be traced are fostered out to British families.
Those in government care homes are either allowed to stay in Britain or sent back to their home country when they turn 17 or 18, depending on their character and other circumstances.
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