New generation of detectives tackle notorious murder case as wait for justice continues 20 years on
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Johannesburg - In 2002, two seasoned Scotland Yard detectives went to South Africa, hoping to get a lead in a case that had them stumped.
Shortly after their arrival in Johannesburg, the two men, Commander Andy Baker and Detective Inspector Will O'Reilly, sat stunned as they listened to sangoma Credo Mutwa walk them through what he suspected had happened to the murder victim – believed to be a five-year-old boy.
“They sacrificed an innocent child, who had not yet reached puberty,” The Saturday Star, sister publication The Star, reported the late Mutwa as saying.
“They would have drank his blood and used it to wash themselves.”
The sangoma continued.
“The finger joints would have been used as charms and his bones would have been ground into a paste to give them strength.”
The boy in question had been given the name Adam. On September 21, Adam’s torso was discovered in the River Thames, close to Tower Bridge, in London.
His head, arms and legs have never been recovered.
Seven months later, Baker and O’ Reilly came to South Africa, where muti experts and members of the world’s only occult murder squad helped them get a handle on why a body was dismembered and thrown into one of busiest waterways on the planet.
They also hoped a former president could help them out too.
Mutwa was shown pictures of the torso, and he would later tell journalists that they horrified him.
He suspected that the boy they called Adam had been the victim of a West African ritual slaying, called an obeh.
He was probably a Nigerian, whose killers had kidnapped him, and then smuggled into Britain. The sacrifice, the sangoma believed, had been made as a gift to a sea goddess.
“These monsters must be hanged,” Mutwa declared at the time.
Twenty years later, those monsters have yet to face justice – and Adam’s real name remains unknown.
But just this week, on the 20th anniversary of the murder, the London Metropolitan police made a fresh appeal, hoping that someone might come forward.
A new generation of detectives are now casting their eyes over the case, and the hope is that the passing of time might just give them the break they need.
“We recognise people may not have wanted to speak up at the time and may have felt loyal to the person or people involved in this,” said Detective Chief Inspector Kate Kieran, in a statement. She is a homicide detective at the London’s Metropolitan Police Specialist Crime Command.
“However, over the past 20 years, allegiances and relationships may have changed, and some people may now feel more comfortable talking to us. We implore them to be bold and come forward if they know something, so that we can finally deliver justice once and for all,” said Kieran.
Of what has been gleaned about Adam and his final days, it appears that Mutwa was onto something.
Bone analysis pointed to the boy having come from an area close to Benin City, in southern Nigeria.
An examination of Adam’s stomach contents found African river clay, mixed with vegetation, ground bone, with traces of gold and quartz.
Further analysis identified the presence of two unusual plant species in his stomach.
There were traces of Calabar bean, also known as the Doomsday plant, which is used in witchcraft in West Africa and causes paralysis. Also found were seeds from the Datura plant, which is known to act as a sedative and causes hallucinations.
Pollen, also found in his gut, showed that he had only been in the UK for a couple of days.
A pair of orange shorts found on the torso were bought in Germany, suggesting to detectives that Adam might have travelled from there to the UK.
Over the years, the police were able to make some arrests, but charges never stuck.
Well known forensic psychologist Dr Gerard Labuschagne met with the two Scotland Yard detectives, when they visited South Africa twenty years ago.
At the time, Labuschagne was the head of the SAPS profiler unit.
“They definitely did a massive amount of work, more so than I have ever seen anybody do in trying to identify a body,” recalled Labuschagne.
The SAPS helped the visiting detectives set up meetings with occult and muti experts. But their main goal, said Labuschagne, was to get former president Nelson Mandela to make a plea for someone to come forward. They got their wish when they met with Mandela on Friday, April 19, 2002.
The former statesman’s address was translated into several languages and broadcast across Africa.
“If anywhere, even in the remotest village of our continent, there is a family missing a son of that age, who might have disappeared around that time, please contact the police in London directly, or through their local police,” Mandela said.
But it was not enough, Adam remained unidentified and, in 2006, he was buried in an unmarked grave in a London cemetery.
This time round detectives are hoping that finally their appeal will be successful and Adam will get his name back. However, Labuschagne is sceptical.
"I don't really know if the appeal will really change much. It's like a crap shoot, it might or might not work,” said Labuschagne.
“You might just get a whole bunch of nut jobs giving faulty information. And you have to follow everything up. But that is just how it is,” he added.