Mandela in plea for help over Thames torso murder

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The Independent Online

Nelson Mandela urged his fellow Africans yesterday to help British detectives investigating the murder of a boy whose mutilated body was found in the Thames.

The former South African president made his appeal after a meeting in Johannesburg with two Scotland Yard investigators who suspect the boy was kidnapped in Africa and smuggled to Britain for a ritualistic killing.

Mr Mandela said: "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."

Earlier the detectives, Commander Andy Baker and Detective Inspector Will O'Reilly, were told by a South African expert on ritual killings that the boy had probably been sacrificed to a Nigerian sea goddess in a ritual.

Credo Mutwa told the officers that he thought the torso they had found was that of a Nigerian boy whose killers had tracked him for weeks before kidnapping him, taking him to Britain and murdering him.

Mr Mutwa painted a horrifying picture of what he described as a west African ritual that could have involved drinking the boy's blood from his skull. The South African sangoma – traditional healer – said: "I think this is a human sacrifice to some sort of water deity carried out by a gang of people strengthening themselves to do some very ugly crimes."

The boy, who is believed to have been aged five or six, died after his throat was cut. His head and limbs were then cut off and a pair of girl's orange shorts were placed on the torso. The body was discovered near Tower Bridge in east London on 21 September last year. The rest of his body has not been found and he has not been identified. Investigations indicate that he might have arrived in Britain only days before his death.

Scotland Yard detectives visited South Africa because it is the only country in the world with a police squad specialising in occult murder. The squad has experience of several ritual murders, muti, in which people are killed for body parts that some traditional healers believe are essential ingredients for certain kinds of "lucky" medicine.

Despite a £50,000 reward for information on the London murder, nobody has come forward to identify the boy, and police have made little progress with their investigation.

Acting on Mr Mutwa's information, the two detectives said they were likely to travel to west Africa to pursue their investigation.

Mr Mandela urged people, especially in Africa, to come forward with any information that could help police. "Early indications ... are that the boy comes from somewhere in Africa," he said. "Establishing the true identity of the boy is crucial for a successful conclusion of the investigation.

"The post-mortem reveals that he died in a very violent manner. His neck had been cut in a very unusual way and he had a lot of loss of blood. What is even more gruesome is that the arms, legs and head had, according to the post-mortem result, been removed in a very skilful manner.

"Scotland Yard's careful investigation, despite the lack of information, has pointed to this murder possibly having a ritualistic stance to it. It may be that we are dealing here with what is often referred to as a muti murder."