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Tuesday, 16 October, 2001, 14:32 GMT 15:32 UK
Witchdoctor investigation in torso case
The River Thames by the Globe Theatre
The child's body was found near the Globe Theatre
Police say boy whose dismembered torso was found in the River Thames in London, may have been the victim of a ritual killing.

They are investigating the possibility that his death was carried out by witchdoctors, who used his body parts for magic potions.

The body of the African-Caribbean boy - with his head, arms and legs missing - was spotted by someone crossing Tower Bridge last month.

No one has identified the boy, who was thought to have been five years old.

Rare case

Detective Inspector Will O'Reilly, from the serious crime group, said: "It's one of many lines of inquiry we are looking at, we are not ruling anything out.

"Statistically this is very, very unusual - there has not been a case in the UK of this type of child dismemberment since our records began over 30 years ago."

Police believe it is also possible the boy may have been killed by paedophiles, although there was no obvious sign of a sexual attack.

Officers met Dutch police investigating a similar murder of a young white girl in Holland, but no firm link has been made.

The label from the shorts
The boy's shorts had German washing instructions
The girl's dismembered body was found in a lake at Nulde and her head was discovered separately by a fisherman miles away in the Hook of Holland.

The way in which both bodies were cut up has raised the fear that a form of black magic performed in South Africa could have come to Europe.

Police in South Africa have estimated hundreds of children may have been killed by witchdoctors practising a version of traditional "muti" medicine.

True witchdoctors or "sangomas" use natural remedies such as forest herbs, plants, animal skins and bones and invoke ancestral spirits to provide healing.

Orange shorts

But there have been killings by corrupt witchdoctors who want to use body parts in their ointments and potions.

These parts are sometimes taken from live victims because their screams are thought to enhance the power of the medicines.

The only clue as to the identity of the boy is a pair of orange shorts labelled Kids and Company with German washing instructions printed inside.

Detectives think the boy died from a violent trauma to the neck before his head was severed from his body.

It is believed the torso was in the river between for up to 10 days.

Police looked for other body parts from Teddington to the Thames estuary.


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See also:

26 Sep 01 | England
Police seek torso cases link
24 Sep 01 | England
Police focus on Dutch torso 'link'
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