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Friday, 8 March, 2002, 14:27 GMT
Tests to identify Thames torso
Police graphic of boy's torso
The boy was found wearing orange shorts
New forensic techniques are being used to try to identify a young boy whose torso was washed up in the River Thames in London.

From the outset police have investigated the possibility he may have been the victim of a ritualistic killing.

But after seven months police admit they are no closer to identifying him or solving the case.

If it is voodoo, they are by nature a very secretive sect

Detective Inspector Will O'Reilly
Detectives hope "bone mapping" tests on his body will help them pinpoint the country and region where he lived and grew up.

The tests will reveal mineral deposits contained in his bones which experts hope will reveal key details such as what food he ate and what type of soil it came from.

Scientists from the human genome project are carrying out separate tests on the boy's DNA in an attempt to discover his ancestry.

It is the first time both techniques have been used in a criminal investigation in Britain.

Police reward

It was thought initially that the boy's killing may have been the UK's first case of "Muti" killing, a human sacrifice practiced in southern Africa.

But police are now moving to examine whether the boy's killing could be linked to voodoo from western Africa.

The boy, who has been called "Adam" by police, is thought to have been Afro-Caribbean, and aged about five or six.

Detectives investigating the murder are continuing to appeal for witnesses and a 50,000 reward has been offered for information.

Human sacrifice

Police have not ruled out the possibility he was murdered by a paedophile or a stranger, or of a mercy killing or domestic death.

But Detective Inspector Will O'Reilly said there was a need to "confront" the possibility of a human sacrifice as police were looking at the ritualistic aspect as a major line of inquiry.

He told BBC London: "Professor Schultz came over - the leading world expert in this field - and he said in his opinion this was probably a ritualistic killing.

"He had some concerns. The fact the child was circumcised - he probably wasn't south[ern] African and therefore not Muti. [That] pushes us further up in Africa.

"I must stress the ritualistic is just one of many other motives ... we are still considering domestic and sexual [motives]."

European cases

But he admitted the closed nature of voodoo worship might cause detectives problems.

"We will be up against it. If it is voodoo, they are by nature a very secretive sect."

The youngster's torso was spotted floating in the Thames by a man walking across Tower Bridge on 21 September last year. It had been in the water for up to 10 days.

Police have also been liaising closely with detectives in Germany and Belgium where three similar cases have emerged, involving the murder of children whose bodies were disposed of in running water.

Anyone with information about the Thames killing is asked to call the police incident room on 0208 853 1212.

The BBC's Nadine Ghouri
"This investigation could move out of London to a different country"
The BBC's Angus Stickler
"The existence of voodoo in the UK is not hidden"
DI Will O'Reilly, officer leading the investigation
"This case is unique"

Click here to go to BBC London Online
See also:

08 Mar 02 | UK
Voodoo 'practised in UK'
29 Jan 02 | England
Thames torso 'was human sacrifice'
25 Jan 02 | England
Ritual killing link to dead boy
21 Dec 01 | England
Torso murder reward offered
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