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Torso case boy – River Thames – 2001

February 2013

Torso case boy ‘identified’

Torso case boy 'identified'

A murdered African boy whose torso was found in the River Thames in 2001 and whose identity has remained a mystery has been named by a key witness.

The torso was discovered on the afternoon of Friday, 21 September 2001, as it floated past the Tower of London towards Tower Bridge in Central London. A passer-by crossing the bridge had noticed an orange object in the water, and realising it was a body as it passed under the bridge, alerted the police. The Metropolitan Police sent its marine search unit to the scene, who recovered the torso further downstream. The body was found to be the torso of a young black child, the orange being a pair of shorts around the stumps of the legs. 

His arms, legs and head had been expertly cut off.

No-one has been charged with the murder

Former Glasgow resident Joyce Osagiede, who now lives in Nigeria, told BBC News the boy’s name was Patrick Erhabor.

She claims she looked after him when she lived in Germany before he was trafficked into the UK.

Detectives – who named the boy “Adam” – believe he was murdered as part of a African ritual sacrifice.


Torso case boy 'identified'11

Post mortem results, too grim to bear much repetition, reveal that he was still alive when his throat was cut; the West African poison that was found in his intestine is a paralysing agent, not an anaesthetic. There’s a very real chance that Adam would have seen what was coming.

Unable to move and unable to scream, Adam’s last sight on earth would have been of a man approaching him — and then the flash of a razor-sharp knife.

Adam’s body was found in the River Thames in London, close to the reconstruction of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, on September 21, 2001. The case, however, soon became known as ‘the torso in the Thames’ because when it was found, the body was without its legs, arms and head and had been entirely drained of its blood.

All that was left was the small trunk of a little black boy, its lower half clad in a pair of bright orange shorts. When it was first spotted in the river by a member of the public, he initially assumed he was looking at a barrel.

A sophisticated analysis of Adam’s bones for trace minerals that are absorbed from food and water revealed levels of strontium, copper and lead two-and-a-half times higher than would normally be expected in a child living in England.

Forensic tests showed he was from the Benin City area of Nigeria.

A tip-off led to Joyce Osagiede who, in 2002, was living in Glasgow.

Officers thought she was involved in some way, but due to a lack of evidence and doubts about her mental state she was deported to Nigeria.

But last year Ms Osagiede contacted BBC News and said she was now prepared to reveal everything she knew about the case.

A BBC team travelled to her home in Benin City in southern Nigeria, together with Nick Chalmers, a former detective who worked on the Adam investigation.

Ms Osagiede told the BBC she looked after the boy in the weeks before he was trafficked to London and then murdered.

For the first time she revealed what she claimed was his real name.

She said he was called Patrick Erhabor – and that his mother’s surname was Oghogho – and she claimed the child was brought to her when she lived in Germany.

The police team — led by Detective Constable Will O’Reilly and Commander Baker — soon knew three key things about Adam: his exact origin in Nigeria, that the orange shorts he was wearing were sold only in Germany and Austria, and that he had been killed in some sort of ritualistic way by someone convinced they would acquire power from such a barbaric act.

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The scene near The Globe Theatre in London where the torso of Ikpomwosa was recovered from the Thames

Dr Richard Hoskins, a leading expert on African religion then based at Bath University, came in on the case. He said that the calabar bean was commonly used by African witch doctors for voodoo.

It was exceptionally rare to see the bean used in Britain, but its presence in Adam’s gut — along with that of the other ingredients found there — convinced him this was something utterly horrific: a human sacrifice.

‘Adam’s body would have been drained of blood, as an offering to whatever god his murderer believed in,’ said Dr Hoskins. ‘The gold flecks in his intestine were used to make the sacrifice more appealing to that god.’

‘The sacrifice of animals happens throughout sub-Saharan Africa and is used to empower people, often as a form of protection from the wrath of gods. Human sacrifice is believed to be the most “empowering” form of sacrifice — and offering up a child is the most extreme form of all. Thankfully, in Africa, it is very rare.’

But why was Adam’s body so grotesquely mutilated? Dr Hoskins, who has been instrumental in helping police with the case, said the precision of the cuts — the knife used was meticulously sharpened between each incision — shows that the dismemberment of the body was all part of the ritual.

In some forms of African witchcraft — particularly those associated with South Africa — dismembered body parts are used in medicine. In some cases, internal organs can be used in potions, and fingers, eyeballs or genitalia are used as charms. Heads and other body parts can be buried in front of homes to keep bad spirits at bay.

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Clue: The only clothing on his body was this pair of orange shorts, exclusively sold in Woolworths in Germany and Austria

But in Adam’s case, the internal organs were intact and Dr Hoskins believes the limbs and head — along with the torso — were all disposed of in the Thames in some form of ritual and that they were never discovered.

After all, the police said that had the tide gone in and out just twice more, Adam’s torso would have been washed out to sea and no one would ever have known about it.

For the Met to be confronted with a ritual murder of this sort was unprecedented. But then, in a twist of fate, immigration police at Glasgow airport arrested a confused Nigerian woman, newly arrived from Germany. 

She was claiming asylum, had two young daughters in tow and was making bizarre claims about ‘extreme religious ceremonies’ that her estranged and violent husband was involved in. The Met team quickly headed north.

In the Glasgow flat the woman and her daughters had been put up in, the team made a vital breakthrough, finding a pair of orange shorts, identical to the ones Adam had been wearing.

There was more circumstantial evidence tying this woman, called Joyce Osagiede, to Adam. 

In Germany, a young boy had been seen in her care, only to vanish shortly before Adam’s body was found floating in the Thames, while both her estranged husband and another man she associated with had been convicted of offences relating to people trafficking. 

But Joyce denied ever having any contact with Adam and insisted she had only ever bought one pair of orange shorts. DNA tests showed she wasn’t related to Adam in any way. 

So when it became clear that she had definitely been in Hamburg at the time of the boy’s death, police had no choice but to release her. 

Joyce was deported back to Nigeria and, for the next six years, the trail went cold, with the police apparently no closer to identifying Adam or his killers.

In the past, she has told officers she then handed the boy over to a man she called “Bawa” who took him to the UK.

Now, for the first time, she has identified “Bawa” as Kingsley Ojo – a bogus asylum seeker who first came to London in 1997.

“Bawa is called Kingsley,” she says.

There is no evidence Kingsley Ojo was involved in the murder or that he knew what would happen to the boy.

Ms Osagiede says he took Adam from her and took him to the UK.

Ojo, who used three different identities, was arrested in London in 2002 by officers investigating the Adam case.

In his flat they found in a plastic bag, a mixture of bone, sand and flecks of gold very similar to a concoction found in the dead boy’s stomach.

‘Interesting’ development

There was also a video marked “rituals” which showed a B-movie in which an actor cuts off the head of a man.

Ojo said the video and mixture belonged to other people in the house and detectives could not establish a link between him and the Adam case.

In 2004, he was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison for people smuggling. While in prison he contacted officers and offered to help with the inquiry.

But investigators concluded he was wasting police time and he was deported to Nigeria.

Retired detective Nick Chalmers, who worked on the inquiry for seven years, said Ojo was “someone I’ve been interested in for a long while – I’ve always suspected his involvement and now, for the very first time, we have a witness who is saying categorically Kingsley was involved”.

Kingsley Ojo refused requests from BBC News for an interview, but he has always insisted he had nothing to do with the killing.

Mr Chalmers said the development with the name given by Ms Osagiede was “really interesting”.

But he also recognises she has been unreliable in the past and has psychiatric problems. She is currently taking medication.

In 2011 she identified a photograph discovered by the police – and shown to her by a journalist – as the dead boy and said his name was “Ikpomwosa”.

Ongoing investigation

Ms Osagiede now says that was all a misunderstanding and reveals the picture is “Danny, my friend Tina’s son, he lives in Germany”.

She says it was taken during a party in her old flat in Hamburg.

We travelled to Hamburg to find out if she was telling the truth about the photo and tracked down Danny.

He immediately recognised the photo but was surprised to hear it had been used by newspapers and TV news around the world.

“You said that I was already on TV and I didn’t know it,” he said.

We located Ms Osagiede’s old flat on the other side of the city where she looked after the boy she calls Patrick.

There we met a man who saw the child.

“The boy was running around, he was wearing shorts and a T-shirt and he was jumping all over this couch that they had and drawing on it,” he said.

The BBC shared what it had learned with the Metropolitan Police.

A spokesman for the Met said “the investigation remains ongoing and any new information provided to the team will be thoroughly investigated”.

Anyone with any information should call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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