September 21, 2001 was just another normal day along the River Thames, in London, with people out taking strolls and going about their daily business. Yet at some point during the day a pedestrian near the Tower Bridge noticed something bobbing about in the water, which looked somewhat like a tree stump but oddly with what appeared to be orange shorts upon it. As the person moved closer to see what this oddity was, it soon became apparent that this was no tree trunk. The soggy form was covered with what looked to be skin, and then it was alarmingly obvious that it had raw stumps upon it where arms and legs should be attached, and another that should have held a head. This was no tree trunk, but rather the torso of a human body. And so would begin a chilling case that includes a mysterious, gruesome death, people from nowhere, and black magic.
When investigators arrived, it was quickly clear to see that the torso had been in the water for quite some time, at least a week. It was so waterlogged and decayed, in fact, that there was no possible way to identify who it was, but they were able to glean some information from it. The body was determined to be that of a 5 or 6 year-old boy, dressed in orange girl’s shorts, and when the stumps where his limbs and head had once been were examined they were found to have been cut off with expert precision. Whoever had dismembered and beheaded the body had done it with a very sharp instrument and had done it with one powerful strike, as there was no evidence that they had been hacked away at. It was also discovered that his throat appeared to have been cut before the head was removed, and that it was likely that the body had been completely drained of blood. One crucial piece of information was missing, and that was the boy’s identity. There was no way to check databases, nothing to go on, he was just another forgotten face of the human trafficking trade, and he ended up being called “Adam” by investigators.
The torso was brought in for forensic testing, which would turn up various other oddities. His stomach was found to oddly contain German food, pieces of gold, as well as the residue of Datura seeds and Calabar beans, which are used in some West African nations to make a black magic concoction that acts as a sedative and toxic paralytic agent, as well as causing powerful hallucinations. It was surmised that the boy had been subdued with these toxins and then dismembered, but also that he would have been awake and keenly aware of the pain during the process, as neither of those drugs are anesthetics. DNA and bone analyses were carried out on the corpse, which suggested that the unidentified boy was most likely not a local, and had probably come from the Benin City area of Nigeria, in Africa. This was a little spooky, because that particular region is known for its practice of Voodoo, indeed considered the birthplace of Voodoo, and with the drugs found in the boy’s system it was thought that this had likely been a ritual human sacrifice. It was speculated that the boy had been trafficked for this very purpose, being brought to London for some witch doctor who had then carried out the grim deed, after which his body parts had likely been sold for medicinal purposes and for making potions for black magic, called muti. One African religion expert, Dr. Richard Hoskins, would say:
Adam’s body would have been drained of blood, as an offering to whatever god his murderer believed in. The gold flecks in his intestine were used to make the sacrifice more appealing to that god.
The police still went about a thorough search of missing children reports throughout the region but came up empty, and efforts to get to the bottom of the case were hampered because this had happened at the time of the September 11 New York terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, and so it was buried by people focusing on that. Undeterred, authorities soldiered on, even having the great Nobel Prize winner Nelson Mandela himself make a public appeal for information on the identity of the boy, which was broadcast throughout Africa in numerous languages. Police even took their investigation to Nigeria, searching for answers as to where Adam had come from, but this was largely in vain. Adam was a specter. The case went cold.
Some life was breathed into the case in July of 2002, when a panicked Nigerian woman who had been living in Germany said that she was on the run from a nefarious black magic cult and that she knew Adam had been one of their victims. Police would find orange shorts in her apartment that matched the type worn by Adam, which was enough to get her deported, and through an investigation of their associates they came to the doorstep of a man named Kingsley Ojo, supposedly a powerful black magician. A search of his London flat would turn up all manner of occult paraphernalia, such as a mixture of bone, sand, flecks of gold and other ritual items and books on ritual sacrifices, but there was no evidence to concretely tie him to Adam’s death. He was nevertheless found guilty of human trafficking and sentenced to 4 years in jail, later deported back to Nigeria. After this, the trail went cold again.
It would not be until 2011 when there would be any new developments in the case of the mysterious Adam. It was then when a woman by the name of Joyce Osagiede, a Nigerian woman who was a former resident of Glasgow, Scotland came forward to the BBC to tell her story. She claimed that she had been charged with caring for the boy, who she said had been 6 years old and went by the name Ikpomwosa. She even showed a photo of the boy, and said that she had looked after him in Germany after his parents had been deported back to Nigeria, after which she handed him off to a man named “Bawa,” who apparently then took him off to London, and presumably his doom. This did little to help, and then the same woman came forward again in 2013 to slightly change her story, now saying that the boy’s name had actually been Patrick Erhabor, the picture she had shown had actually been of a friend’s kid, and that Bawa was actually Kingsley Ojo. This was a groundbreaking lead, and especially of interest to police as Ojo had been investigated for possible connections to the killing before. For his part, Ojo had always adamantly denied having anything to do with it, and there has never been any solid evidence to tie him to it all. Also adding to the confusion is that Joyce had been found to have had a history of mental problems. This, plus the fact that she changed her story, has caused the authorities to doubt whether any of it is true at all, and so we are back to square one.
In the end, the case has never really been solved. The actual identity of the dead, headless and limbless boy has never been concretely proven, and it remains one of the spookier and tragic unsolved deaths in London history. Who was this poor little boy who turned up bobbing around the Thames? Was this the work of West African Voodoo practitioners, and if so who was responsible? The answers are veiled in shadows, and the little boy who turned up in that sludge of the river remains unnamed, his killer or killers uncaught, and it is a truly gruesome unsolved mystery.