People smuggler linked to 'torso in the Thames' case

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The Independent Online

The unsolved murder of a young African boy whose torso was found in the river Thames was linked to a Nigerian people-smuggler yesterday.

The unsolved murder of a young African boy whose torso was found in the river Thames was linked to a Nigerian people-smuggler yesterday.

The boy, aged between four and six, whom police have named "Adam", was the suspected victim of a ritual killing. His headless torso, dressed in red shorts, was found near Tower Bridge three years ago.

Police believe that Kingsley Ojo, 35, a Nigerian based in London, was part of a large network of human traffickers thought to be behind the murder.

The connection came to light after Ojo pleaded guilty yesterday, under a different name, to four counts of falsifying identity and people-smuggling at Southwark Crown Court.

While the charges were not directly related to Adam, Ojo's people-smuggling was uncovered by detectives investigating the murder of the boy.

Adam's body was found in September 2001. Ground-breaking forensic science work, which involved taking samples from the child's bones, first linked him to West Africa and then to Nigeria. The hunt led to a rural area measuring just 50 by 100 miles in the south-west of the country. Materials found in the boy's intestine led police to suspect he had been the victim of a so-called muti (the Zulu word for medicine) ritual killing.

Nelson Mandela, the former South African president, appealed for witnesses as British police visited his country as part of the inquiry.

Ojo, who like Adam was from the Benin area, was one of a number of people arrested in the summer of 2002 in connection with the murder. He was released on bail. Police have submitted a "full case file" to the Crown Prosecution Service and are awaiting a decision.

Ojo was then one of 21 people arrested in a series of raids in July last year by Operation Maxim, Scotland Yard's organised immigration crime unit.

Detective Chief Inspector Will O'Reilly, head of the investigation into Adam's death, said yesterday that Ojo may contribute further to the murder inquiry. "Because of his association with an earlier arrest in this case, we have always had suspicions that he is part of the trafficking network that may have brought the young child into the country," he said.

"We now know he came from the same area of Nigeria as the child and other people arrested in connection with the murder inquiry, and that is Benin City."

Ojo, who has several identities, appeared at Southwark Crown Court yesterday under the name of Mousa Kamara, 30, from Stratford, east London. He pleaded guilty to two counts of assisting the illegal entry of two adults into Britain and to two charges of obtaining a false passport and driving licence.

The court was told that Ojo had arrived in Britain in 1997 as an asylum-seeker with documents from Sierra Leone. He befriended a woman whose son had died hours after birth eight years earlier and used the child's birth certificate to obtain a new identity as Kieran Bourne.

Using this identity he was able to circumvent travel restrictions imposed by his immigration status. While he claimed to operate a company importing and exporting shoes from Italy, a new passport enabled him to play a leading role in a people-trafficking ring suspected of smuggling "substantial" numbers into Britain.

The court heard how he paid for flights on two occasions from Stansted to Italy, before returning with "illegal" companions Sylvester Ehigie and Christopher Efe.

Sentencing has been adjourned until later this month to assess whether the defendant's properties or belongings should be confiscated.

After the hearing, police estimated that Ojo may have been charging each of the people he trafficked up to £20,000. "The fee depends on the level of service the illegal immigrant is receiving," said Detective Inspector Mick Forteath, head of Operation Maxim. "In this case, he was travelling to collect these people and providing them with passports and other documents for travelling back into the UK."