Fresh appeal to find torso in the Thames killer

Fresh appeal to find torso in the Thames killer: Detectives launch new probe to find murderer who decapitated five-year-old ‘Adam’ and slit his throat in voodoo ritual killing

  • The torso of a boy from Africa was found in the Thames on September 21, 2001 
  • He died from trauma to the neck and his head and limbs have never been found
  • Despite several arrests, police are yet to charge anyone with the boy’s death
  • They are now launching a new appeal 20 years after the discovery of the body 

A fresh appeal has been launched by police 20 years after the torso of a boy trafficked from Nigeria and possibly murdered in a ritualistic killing was found in the Thames. 

Named ‘Adam’ by detectives, the boy aged five or six was wearing a pair of orange shorts and it is believed he was smuggled into the country via Germany.

He had died from trauma to the neck and his head and limbs have never been found.

Tests on the body and stomach contents showed Adam had only been in the UK for a few days before he was murdered and that he was probably from southwestern Nigeria near Benin City.

It was suggested that he might have been smuggled especially to be sacrificed in a ceremony.

Despite several arrests, police are yet to charge anyone with the boy’s death and have launched a fresh appeal in the hope someone who couldn’t speak before can now come forward.

The scene near The Globe where the young boy’s torso was recovered on September 21, 2001

The boy, thought to be five or six, was wearing orange shorts like this pair when his headless body was found


A photo was released in 2011 claiming to be Adam – though the claim was withdrawn a year later. His body was found in the Thames by an IT consultant

A Scotland Yard spokesperson said: ‘Twenty years after the torso of a young boy was found in the River Thames, detectives are calling on the public to come forward with any information that may help them solve his murder.

‘Investigating officers believe that over the past two decades relationships and allegiances may have changed and are specifically reaching out to people whose connection or association with someone has now ended.

‘Officers urge those who may have felt uncomfortable speaking to the police in the past to ‘be bold’ and come forward.’

Detective Chief Inspector Kate Kieran, a homicide detective from the Met’s Specialist Crime Command, said: ‘It is incredibly sad and frustrating that Adam’s murder remains unsolved.

‘The homicide command have been working tirelessly over the years to find out who is responsible.

‘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.

‘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 be bold and come forward if they know something so that we can finally deliver justice once and for all.

‘No matter how old or small that information may seem, it really could make all the difference.

Nigerian Joyce Osiagede is the only person to be arrested in Britain as part of the inquiry. She was later bailed and released with no further action

Police issued a graphic of the five-year-old’s severed torso with the distinctive red shorts in a bid to get more information about the boy, who has not been identified

‘This young boy has not and will not be forgotten. He deserved better and we will not give up on him.’

The Met Police spokesperson added: ‘On Friday, 21 September 2001 at 16:00hrs a young boy’s torso was found in the River Thames near Tower Bridge by a member of the public.

‘Police were called and a marine support unit recovered his body. He was named ‘Adam’ by police officers – his identity is still unknown.

‘Forensics revealed that the little boy would have been five or six years old and was from Nigeria – it is believed he was trafficked into the UK, possibly via Germany.

‘His head and limbs had been severed from his body which was clothed in a pair of orange shorts. The cause of death was declared as a violent trauma to the neck area.

The torso of a boy found in the Thames: A timeline 

September 21, 2001: IT consultant Aidan Minter was climbing the steps to Tower Bridge when he caught sight of something floating in the water – a mannequin, he thought, with what seemed to be a red cloth attached to it. Minter ran down the steps with his curiosity turning to horror when he realised he was staring at a headless body.

September 21-28, 2001: Investigators suggest the boy may have been in the water for up to 10 days. 

He died from having his throat slit and his arms, legs and head had all been expertly amputated. 

There was nothing on the body except a pair of orange shorts from the ‘Kids & Company’. The type of shorts could only be found in a small number of shops in Germany. Nearly a week after the body was found, BBC’s Crimewatch launched an appeal.

April 2002: Nelson Mandela made an impassioned plea to the African public for help. 

He said: ‘Scotland Yard informs me that early indications of their investigations are that the boy comes from somewhere in Africa, so 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.’

July 2002: Glasgow social workers find ritualistic objects in the home of Joyce Osagiede, who tells them she and her two children are part of a cult. 

Scotland Yard is informed and detectives discover clothes with the same ‘Kids & Company’ label and in the same sizes as Adam’s orange shorts. Joyce was arrested but despite intensive questioning, she is not charged. 

September 2002: A memorial service held in London’s City Hall on the anniversary of Adam’s body being found. It is attended by police officers, scientists, pathologists and other experts involved in the case. 

At the same time, forensic work narrows down Adam’s birthplace to land near Benin City in Nigeria, which is also Joyce Osagiede’s home city. 

Pollen samples in his gut also showed he had been living in the south-east of England for a few days or weeks before his death. 

November 2002: Joyce Osagiede is deported after the Home Office rejected her asylum application but doesn’t reveal any information about Adam. She disappears after landing in Lagos. 

Afterwards, German police say she lived in Hamburg until late 2001, which is also the city where Adam’s shorts were bought. 

July 2003: Kingsley Ojo is arrested as part of several raids on human trafficking in London.

Police discovered that he was one of two contacts on Joyce Osagiede’s phone. 

A house he stayed at contained an animal skull pierced with a nail, liquid potions and small packets containing sand. 

Officers also found a videotape labelled ‘rituals’ which showed an adult being beheaded.   

October 2003: Kew Gardens botanists analysing samples of a plant found in Adam’s gut discover he had been fed small amounts of Calabar bean – sometimes known as the Doomsday and used in witchcraft ceremonies in West Africa.

The dosage found would have paralysed Adam but not prevented any pain. Ground up seed from the Datura plant, which acts as a sedative and causes hallucinations, were also discovered. 

July 2004: Kingsley Ojo is jailed with four charges of people smuggling and using fake documents to obtain a passport and driving licence.   

He was jailed for four years and is said to have performed ‘juju’ ceremonies for other inmates behind bars.  

December 2004: An inquest into Adam’s death recorded a verdict of unlawful killing, hearing that he died from neck wounds suffered while he was still alive.

Late 2005: Kingsley Ojo offers the team investigating Adam’s death and claims he has secret recordings of Joyce Osagiede.

He convinces officers he can help, while awaiting deportation, and spends two years feeding them information.   

December 2006: Adam’s body is laid to rest in an unmarked grave in a London cemetery.

2008: Kingsley Ojo is deported back to Nigeria after detectives realise they cannot rely on him. 

In Nigeria, Joyce Osagiede finally admits she looked after Adam when she had lived in Hamburg in northern Germany and bought the orange shorts found on his body.  

Ria Matthes, a social worker assessing benefit claims, tells the BBC she met Joyce on several occasions when she was in Hamburg with her daughters. 

She also said that remembers seeing Joyce twice with a small boy in the summer of 2001 who she believes may have been Adam.  

March 2011: Joyce Osagiede claims a photo found among her belongings in Germany is of Adam.  

She says his real name was Ikpomwosa and that she had looked after the boy, but given him to a man called Bawa. 

2012: Joyce’s brother Victor says the boy in the photo is not Adam and says there had been a ‘misunderstanding’. 

The BBC meet with Victor and Joyce who tells them that the boy in the photo was actually called ‘Danny’ – who was later tracked down in Hamburg. 

She then suggests Adam was called Patrick Erhabor.

Joyce later identifies the man Bawa as trafficker Kingsley Ojo. Ojo continues to deny links to Adam’s killing and there is no evidence of him being involved. 

September 21, 2021: Met Police launch a fresh appeal to find Adam’s killer to mark the 20 year anniversary of his body being found.     

‘It is believed his death may have been a ritualistic killing.

‘Over the past two decades officers have regularly reviewed the case. This has included conducting local and international enquiries and police continue to explore forensic opportunities in light of technologies that are now available.

‘The inquiry has also included comprehensive checks on all UK missing people and extensive inquiries in London, other parts of the UK and abroad, including South Africa, Holland, Germany and Nigeria.

‘Despite these efforts and numerous high-profile appeals over the years, including an appeal by Nelson Mandela to all the African communities across the world to help police, the case remains unsolved.

‘Detectives are continuing in their efforts to identify those responsible for this murder of a young child and ask anyone with information that could assist them to come forward.’

A woman was previously arrested on suspicion of murder, she was later bailed and released with no further action.

A man was previously arrested and interviewed in connection with the possible trafficking of Adam into the UK. He was later bailed and released with no further action.

Another man was also arrested and interviewed on suspicion of alleged trafficking offences. He was later bailed and released with no further action.

Adam is thought to have been drugged with a ‘black-magic’ potion and sacrificed before being thrown into the Thames, where his torso washed up next to the Globe Theatre in September 2001.

Detectives used pioneering scientific techniques to trace radioactive isotopes in his bones to his native Nigeria.

They even enlisted Nelson Mandela to appeal for information about the murder.

But they always struggled to formally identify the boy, who they called Adam, despite travelling to the West African state to try to trace his family. 

Nigerian Joyce Osiagede, the only person to be arrested in Britain as part of the inquiry, claimed in 2011 that a boy in a picture was Adam. She said his real name is Ikpomwosa.

A year later, she retracted her claim with her brother saying there was a misunderstanding. 

In an interview with ITV’s London Tonight, Mrs Osiagede said she looked after the boy in Germany for a year before travelling to Britain without him in 2001.

She claimed she handed the boy over to a man known as Bawa who later told her that he was dead and threatened to kill her unless she kept silent.

Mrs Osiagede was first questioned by police after they found clothing similar to that worn by ‘Adam’ in her Glasgow tower-block flat in 2002.

The only clothing on his body was a pair of orange shorts, exclusively sold in Woolworths in Germany and Austria.

Dressed in a traditional gold and green dress, Mrs Osiagede denied any involvement with the death of the young boy. Asked who killed him, she said a ‘group of people’.

She added: ‘They used him for a ritual in the water.’

Claiming the boy was six years old, she said: ‘He was a lively boy. A very nice boy, he was also intelligent.’

Detailed analysis of a substance in the boy’s stomach was identified as a ‘black magic’ potion.

It included tiny clay pellets containing small particles of pure gold, an indication that Adam was the victim of a Muti ritual killing.

Muti murders, common in sub-Saharan Africa, are carried out in the belief that the body parts of children are sacred. Bodies are often disposed of in flowing water.

However, other experts believed it was more likely a human sacrifice in a version of Yoruban belief systems from Nigeria. They suggested the killing was an offering to the goddess Oshun – a deity typically associated with water and fertility.

Forensic work narrowed down Adam’s birthplace to land near Benin City in Nigeria, which is also Mrs Osagiede’s home city. 

Pollen samples in his gut also showed he had been living in the south-east of England for a few days or weeks before his death.       

 Kew Gardens botanists analysing samples of a plant found in Adam’s gut discover he had been fed small amounts of Calabar bean – sometimes known as the Doomsday and used in witchcraft ceremonies in West Africa.

The dosage found would have paralysed Adam but not prevented any pain. Ground up seed from the Datura plant, which acts as a sedative and causes hallucinations, were also discovered.  

The BBC met with Mrs Osagiede and her brother Victor in Nigeria in 2012. 

Mrs Osagiede told them that the boy in the photo she previously claimed was Adam was actually called ‘Danny’ – who was later tracked down in Hamburg. 

She then suggests Adam was called Patrick Erhabor.

Joyce also identified trafficker Kingsley Ojo as a man called ‘Bawa’ who she gave Adam to. 

In 2003, Ojo was arrested as part of several raids on human trafficking in London.

Police also discovered that he was one of two contacts on Joyce Osagiede’s phone from her time in the UK. 

A house Ojo stayed at contained an animal skull pierced with a nail, liquid potions and small packets containing sand. 

Officers also found a videotape labelled ‘rituals’ which showed an adult being beheaded.   

Ojo was later jailed with four charges of people smuggling and using fake documents to obtain a passport and driving licence.   

He was jailed for four years and is said to have performed ‘juju’ ceremonies for other inmates behind bars.  

While in jail, he offered help to the team investigating Adam’s death and claimed he has secret recordings of Joyce Osagiede.

He convinced officers he could help in late 2005, while awaiting deportation, and spent two years feeding them information.   

Ojo deported back to Nigeria after detectives realise they couldn’t rely on him. He continues to deny any links to Adam’s death and there is no evidence linking him to the murder. 

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