Adam: The body in the thames
This week we take a look at Adam, the name given to a body fished out the River Thames in 2001 and winds down a dark path that leads straight into a voodoo cult in the heart of London, embroiled with child trafficking and sacrifice.
Adam: The Torso in the Thames
At 4 pm on the 21st September 2001, Aiden Minter was walking along the Thames river in London. As he approached Tower Bridge he noticed something floating in the river. At first, he thought it was a barrel and peered over the bridge to get a better look. Far from a barrel, he instead found that it was the headless and limbless body of a child. Floating away on the Thames with the tide.
Linked to both witch doctors and ritualistic sacrificial killings, the police investigation was intense and played heavily with the press to flirt with the public eye. Despite its high profile, leads were as fruitless as they were bizarre and confirmation of the exact reason for his murder along with the murderers themselves have evaded police for the past 16 years.
This is Dark histories, where the facts are worse than fiction.
London, 21st September 2001
Aiden Minter was a 32-year-old IT consultant working in the bustle of London’s busy central hub. At around 4 pm on Friday 21st September 2001, he was leaving work and making his way home, walking along the Thames and the South Bank in the heart of London. As he approached Tower Bridge, he noticed what he thought was a barrel floating in the river and leant over the railing to take a closer look. To his shock, he found that rather than a barrel, the object he had spotted was in fact, a dismembered torso. He called the police who hurried to the scene and using a river rescue unit, retrieved what was left of a young boy, dressed only in a pair of bright orange-red shorts, and missing all four of his limbs along with his head.
Detective Inspector Will O’Reilly was amongst the police who helped to fish the body out of the river and would go on to play a leading role in the investigation found the whole scene of the child’s bloated torso quite distressing. “I’d never seen a child that young dismembered,” he said.
The body was sent to the Home Office Pathology unit where Michael Heath undertook an autopsy. The initial findings were quite simple, but nevertheless included several strange and disturbing facts that hinted at a future for the case that could be more than a little unusual. It was found that the body had probably been placed in the river up to ten days prior to discovery. The body was that of a boy, probably aged between 5 to 10 years old, and was of either African or Caribbean descent. His arms, legs and head had been removed and the cuts around the neck that removed the head were noted to have been done with quite a high degree of precision. Unusually, the bodies blood had been entirely drained. There were some traces of Pholcodine, a pharmaceutical found in common cough medicines, in his stomach and a small amount of unidentifiable organic compounds and plant matter in his lower intestine, but otherwise, it appeared the boy had not eaten for several days before his death. The brightly coloured pair of shorts had a label with washing instructions printed in German and were made by a brand called “kids Company”, it was suggested that the shorts had been put on the body of the boy up to a day after his death. There were no signs of sexual interference and outside of the removal of the limbs and head, were no signs of broken bones or other violent blunt trauma. Cause of death was listed as trauma to the neck.
In the immediate aftermath and with not much else to go on, a press conference was quickly called, the police, aware of the shocking nature of the murder even at this early stage, wanted to take the initiative to the press in hopes of leveraging publicity to gain information of the boy’s identity. Superintendent Adrian Maybanks told the busy press room:
“We’ve not Identified the child and consequently, we’ve taken the unprecedented step of giving him the name Adam. Until his family is identified, we will act as his family and his community will be the community of London.”
“I have not come across anything like this before in my career. This is a highly unusual case. We know very little about who this boy is but I would like to reassure members of the London community that we will not rest until the person responsible has been apprehended.”
It was a bold statement to make and in retrospect, painfully naive. No one could have any idea quite how far down a dark path the investigation would travel and for how long.
The Dark practice of JuJu and Muti Medicine
Following the initial autopsy, leads and ideas were drying up around the investigation at an alarming rate. There was no one for the police to question, no witnesses, no searches to be made through any databases as there were no dental records available without a head and no fingerprints without any arms. A search had been ongoing in the Thames to try to find the severed body parts but had been proving fruitless. The police didn’t have any idea as to a motive and nor were they even entirely sure whether or not the boy had been alive whilst in the UK.
Running short on ideas of where to move next, the police moved on the only scrap of information they had. During the autopsy report, Dr Heath had mentioned that he thought the cuts and draining of blood could have been ritualistic in nature. Hedging their bets that the boy was of African descent, they flew in a South African pathologist to give them a second opinion. Dr Hendrik Scholtz carried out a second autopsy and came to an altogether more bizarre conclusion for the police. Scholtz suggested that the dismembered body resembled those of certain killings in Africa and in particular one case from 1994, where the body had been dismembered and dumped near a body of water wrapped in an orange-red sheet. That particular case had been proven to be a killing intended to harvest body parts for creating a medicinal concoction in the dark practice of what is known in Africa as Muti.
The practice of Muti, a term deriving from the Zulu word Uhm Thi, meaning tree, is an African voodoo form of witch doctor magic, harnessing the supposed curative powers of certain parts of plants, animals and in some deviant circles, even humans. Though the use of human body parts in such concoctions is officially outlawed in Africa, official statistics showed there were Muti killings occurring at the rate of one in every two weeks of the year and in 1982 there was even an official occult crime unit specifically set up to deal with Muti killings. The parts would be dried, crushed and ground by a Sangoma, a highly skilled witch doctor. In particular, the genitals and internal organs were highly prized for use in fertility medicines and brains were high on the list of desirable organs, which would be cooked and eaten to enhance political power and business success. Often the victim of Muti murder was kept alive whilst the extraction of the body parts was brutally carried out. It was thought that the louder the victim screamed and the more pain that was suffered, the easier it would be for the voodoo deities to hear the cries and as such, the more powerful the prized parts would become. Children were valued highly for Muti ingredients, as it was believed that they still had a significant portion of the luck allowed to each person’s’ lifetime and were, therefore, more lucrative and sort after over adults who naturally would have already used up a significant amount of their luck as the years of their life had ticked by.
After hearing this disturbing new idea for a motive from Scholtz, police were naturally shocked and more than a little apprehensive, but in October, after very little other ideas had materialised and when the search unit still dredging the Thames made the discovery of a bundle of seven half burnt ritualistic candles wrapped in cloth close to the Battersea Bridge, they were beginning to find the concept easier to believe. The cloth even had a name on it. Written in black ink was the name printed several times over. Adekoyejo Fola Adeyo. The police called a press conference immediately and appealed for information on the name and at the same time confirmed publicly that they were following a line of investigation concerning ritualistic murder. This had the desired effect of stirring the press into a frenzy, something the police hoped would aid them in discovering more information on the boy. Or rather, any information at all.
Despite the initial excitement of the police concerning the name on the sheet, no records were matched in any of the London school databases of a child whose name matched and finally, several days after the press conference, records of a routine customs check was found that lead them to the discovery of Adekoyejo Fola Adeyo. He was fortunately for him, but less so for the investigation, alive and well and living in his home in new york. He had a sister who lived in London who was questioned and admitted to using the candles in a healing ceremony that she had carried out on behalf of her brother. The police dropped the line of investigation, confident that it was entirely unrelated to the case of Adam.
In an effort to gain a handle on the unfamiliar concept of Muti and African Voodoo, one of the lead investigators on the case, Will O’Reilly, visited Dr Richard Hoskins in January of 2002. Richard Hoskins was a senior lecturer in African religions at the University of Bath Spa and had commented in the media days previously on the theory of Muti killings. Police jumped at the chance to enlist an expert to help them comprehend the situation. It was unfortunate then, that rather than corroborate with the Muti motive, as no doubt was the hope, Richard Hoskins instead highlighted several key facts that contradicted everything that he had known of Muti killings. Once shown the photographs of the body and after reading the autopsy report, Hoskins pointed out that genitalia and internal organs were often the most prized body parts harvested in killings usually associated with Muti, though in the case of Adam, none had been taken. Furthermore, the precision of the cuts were raising alarms, as in general, cuts and extractions would not have been carried out with much care, partly due to the fact that how the parts were harvested was not usually a cause for much concern, but also due to the belief that the more pain suffered would lead to a more powerful medicinal ingredient, the parts were usually hacked and violently removed rather than precisely and with care. Thirdly, Hoskins noted that the removal of the limbs was seemingly done after death, another factor that went against the usual practice of Muti for the same reasons. The draining of blood suggested to Hoskins that rather than Muti, it could have been possible that the murder was instead that of another voodoo practice. That of sacrifice.
By February 2002, the investigation had once again completely stalled, however, hoskins, now employed by the police as an official expert, was developing his theory that the murder had been part of a ritual sacrifice. He had also noted that Adam was circumcised, a practice not entirely common in Africa and in the regions and cultures that did undertake the practice, were often at differing periods of a man’s life. This allowed Hoskins to at least hypothesise a general region from where the boy may have grown up and in what culture. As it happened, Adams circumcision was rare in Africa, but common amongst the Yoruban people of West Africa. The Yoruban believed in a Deity named Olorun and the minor Deities, of which there were several hundred, were called Orishas. Each individual Orisha had favourite colours, metals, stones, food, drinks, plants and animals. Hoskins believed that the colour of the shorts and the resting place of the body in the Thames, not exactly an inconspicuous dumping ground by any stretch, was in fact, significant and could hint at which deity was being worshipped. One element of worship also carried out by the Yoruban was, of course, sacrifice, especially when requesting the aid of the Orisha. By May of 2002, He was convinced that Adam had been the victim of sacrifice and cited the intact internal organs, genitalia, precision of the cuts to remove the limbs, the colour of the boys shorts and the dumping in the Thames river along with the fact that the body had been hung upside down to be drained of blood as his basis that sacrifice was to blame in a report he delivered at a conference named “The European Ritualistic Killings Conference” In the Hague along with the police investigating the case. The theory of sacrifice ran contrary to the press angle, which was still concentrating on Muti. After the conference, there was both shock and a new upsurge in interest in reporting the case, which the press naturally saw as far too juicy to pass up reporting in all manner of sensationalist ways. For the police, this once again had the effect of highlighting the case to the public, which they hoped could shed more light and bring in more leads to a case that was hopelessly stuck in a rut and fast running out of options of inquiry.
During the same period of April and May of 2002, Police visited South Africa to try to gather information on Muti killings and met with several prominent people, including Nelson Mandela, who they were very excited to have managed to secure to give a speech in the form of a public address to call for any information regarding the boys identity. Whilst Mandela’s appeal eventually offered no new leads, it did spark a high international profile for the case. They also visited a Sangoma, who promptly ruled out Muti, instead agreeing more readily with the sacrifice theory. The sangoma told them that the blood would have been used to bathe in or drink, probably from the head of the victim and she also made suggestions to the police that the colour of the shorts and the river would have played a significant role in the sacrifice. After their return to London, the police refocused on black communities within London itself, however, without knowing an exact ethnic background for Adam, they were hopelessly swinging in the dark.
In June 2002, The police had tracked down more information regarding the lurid orange-red shorts. They found that they were one of only 820 pairs sold in a German store chain of Woolworths, suggesting that at some point, Adam had spent a period of his journey from Africa to the UK in Germany.
The second discovery made in June happened almost by pure chance, was entirely more significant and would lead to the first arrest of the case, 10 months after the discovery of the body.
Initially, the police were contacted by a member of social services in Scotland. They had been working on a case with a Nigerian woman named Joyce Osagiede who had been involved in several minor breaches of the peace and the social services had been tasked with retrieving the care of two children aged 4 and 6 named Jacqueline and Precious. Whilst this may all seem irrelevant, it was Joyce’s unusual argument for her need to take back care of the children that sparked interest. She had told Social Services that she needed the two girls back for use in a “ritual ceremony”. This prompted the Social Services unit in Scotland to contact police working on the Adam case in London, who promptly responded. When they visited Joyce’s apartment in Glasgow, they found clothing with the same German label from kids Company as the Orange Red shorts giving them enough reason to arrest her arrested her on suspicion of murder for further questioning.
During her interviews with the police, Joyce told of how she had lived in Germany with her husband until November of 2001, one month prior to Adams murder when she had fled to London with the two girls, as she was afraid for their wellbeing. Her husband she said, was the head of a cult named “The Black Coat Eyes of the Devil Guru Maharaj” who had been involved in the past with human sacrifice, specifically children, including her own firstborn son in 1995. She told police of how her husband had been personally responsible for the sacrifice of ten children in 1995 alone. His name, she said was ‘Onojhigovie’, but when asked to repeat the name, she simply wrote “Tony Onus” and then denied that she had mentioned the first name entirely. The police remarked that throughout the time she was questioned, she had appeared very scared. She denied any involvement with Adam and that she had ever taken care of any young boys whilst in Germany. Forensics took swabs from her mouth to test for DNA but found she was not related to Adam and after 48 hours, with nothing solid to make any charges, were forced to release her. By December of 2002, she was deported back to Africa, much to the frustration of many members of the investigation.
Whilst disappointment loomed over the investigation regarding their inability to pin any solid charge onto Joyce, they now had several new leads, including looking into the cult of her now ex-husband, the strangely named Black Coat Eyes of the Devil Guru Maharaj.
The Black Coat Eyes of the Devil Guru Maharaj
The Divine Light Mission was a mystical religion founded by an Indian “Guru” in the heat of the Western swing towards alternative lifestyles and Eastern religions of the 1960’s and 1970s. In 1966, the Guru died however and the movement was left to his son, Maharaj Ji, then only nine years of age.
In the 1970s, Maharaj Ji sensed an opportunity for growth within the international community and took the religion on a world tour, however, it was an abject failure in financial terms and came very close to bankrupting the group. By 1975, Maharaj Ji had moved away from his fathers founding doctrines and with this shift in belief, he changed the name to Elan Vital in North America. By the time of Adams Death in 2001, Elan Vital had around 75,000 members and the Divine Light Mission worldwide stood around 250,000 strong.
One offshoot group in Nigeria used this name, perhaps to piggyback from the renown of the Divine Light Mission but provided their own homegrown slant of voodoo and black magic as a doctrine. Headed by self-professed “Guru”, Mohammed Saib, who had himself stumbled across the teachings of the Maharaj Ji during his studies in London in 1975, he returned to Africa in 1980 and formed the breakaway sect. Saib took on the name of “Black Jesus” and “The perfect living master” and quickly became known amongst rumours that surrounded his sect for accusations of torture and missing persons. To avoid any associations with Saib, the original Divine Light Mission removed themselves from practising in Africa and afterwards, throughout the following the years, Saib’s group rose in stature, despite their “perfect living Master” being jailed in 1999 for murder, although he was later acquitted. From their founding, the cult group had moved through many iterations, including the “One Love Family” and by 2001, were known as “The Black Coat Eyes of the Devil Guru Maharaj”. They owned 29 cult compounds throughout Nigeria including at least one in every major city. Their sacred colour was a bright shade of Orange-Red.
London, October 2002
After the excitement and eventual disappointment with the arrest of Joyce Osagiede, the rest of the summer of 2002 passed by without much movement within the investigation. September layed down the one-year marker for the case and police involved with the investigation held a memorial service on the Thames, close to where Adams body was retrieved. In the same month, another appeal for information was released and included a reward of £50,000 for information that lead to an arrest.
During the questioning of Joyce, police had been supplied with two addresses that she had claimed to live in in London during her time in England, one in Lewisham in the South of London and one in the East-End. The Eastern address gave no information and the current lodger claimed no knowledge of Joyce. The Southern Lewisham flat, however, was somewhat more fruitful and police found bones buried in the back garden, along with a machete and a videotape of her wedding to a man named “Samuel Onojhigovie”, dated 1997. On the tape was a very traditional ceremony indeed. As the pair were wed, a goat was sacrificed and its blood splashed across their altar.
As it turned out, Joyce’s ex-husband was a well-known man in Germany known as Ibrahim Kadade and was wanted for trafficking illegal immigrants.
The police made one other raid in those cold winter months of 2002. In December, from information discovered whilst digging into Joyce’s London residences, police tracked down her Landlord, a man named Kingsley Ojo. As the police busted into the flat, Ojo found his way out of a rear window. Whilst missing the man himself, this did allow police to thoroughly trawl through his apartment and amongst several strange artifacts, found a videotape tagged “Rituals” that graphically depicted a man having his head brutally removed and held aloft in sacrifice to a Yoruban Deity in an attempt to call for help speeding the recovery of an elder for a serious illness. They also found pouches of an unknown powder. The police made to track Ojo and found little trouble in finding him. In fact, it was noted that Ojo seemed not to be overly concerned by the raid and continued his daily life almost as if it had not happened at all. During his arrest, he claimed to know nothing of Adam, nor of Joyce, despite the fact that her contact details were found on his phone.
Throughout Autumn, two important laboratory results were finally supplied to the investigation. Firstly was an analysis of the organic and plant matter found in Adams Lower Intestine. Initially thought to be completely destroyed and unusable, further analysis had been requested by Richard Hoskins who supplied possible matches for the material based from a shortlist of ingredients he believed would have been used in creating a medicine fed to a sacrifice victim that would reflect the favourite ingredients of a specific Orisha. The mixture was found to contain Gold, Quartz, clay, bone material and Calabar beans. This was significant on several levels. Firstly it confirmed to Hoskins that Adam was the victim of sacrifice. This mixture would have been ground up and then burnt, the charcoaled remains fed to him in the days prior to the sacrifice as a method of making the gory ritual more worthy to a deity and was a common practice in African sacrificial Voodoo practices. Furthermore, it allowed police to cross-reference the material with compounds found from samples taken across several regions of the Yoruban Plateau in Western Africa, allowing them to track down to a very specific region in Africa that the cult may have been operating from. Thirdly, the usage of the Calabar bean, which was a highly poisonous substance was known to have paralysing properties when used in low dosages, laying out a clearer timeline of Adams murder, which was slowly unravelling, to present a very dark and disturbing picture. Not unimportantly, the mixture itself also showed a remarkable resemblance in makeup to the packets of powder found in Kingsley Ojo’s apartment.
The second forensic discovery was that of the results of an experimental process that had been run on Adams bone matter, known as Geographical profiling. This forensic profiling analysed bone structure, affected by diet and environment to ascertain the periods of time a person had spent living in certain locations, which themselves left a signature with very specific results. The results of Adams Geographical Profiling showed that Adams diet changed dramatically four weeks prior to his death, suggesting he had been in England for around a month before his murder and that he had indeed grown up in the Yoruban region of West Africa, specifically in the city of Benin. This also happened to be the exact same city that all three, Joyce Osagiede, her husband Samuel Onajhigovie and Kingsley Ojo were from along with the analysis of the powder, which also turned out to correlate with samples from Benin.
Whilst the pieces of the investigation were still hopelessly fractured and left holes at every possible turn, at least the few scraps the investigation possessed were beginning to fit together. Or so the police felt as the year closed on 2002.
In January of 2003, Scotland Yard launched Operation Maxim. Kingsley Ojo was followed and bugged, Joyce’s ex-husband, Samuel Onajhigovie was found and arrested in Ireland along with 21 other arrests across the city of London. The arrests eventually included Ojo himself, who had been followed to a child brothel in Italy. Joyce was tracked down in Nigeria and re-arrested, though once again, nothing solid could be gleaned from her questioning. She maintained to have no knowledge of Adam, though made a statement confirming her involvement with The Black Coat Eyes of the Devil Guru Maharaj from 1994 until 2002 when she had left due to the cult being involved in “too much evil”. She told police that the cult was deeply involved in voodoo and black magic. She also told of how the group had members in both the UK and Germany and that she had played an organisational role in the EU sect. Her ex-husband, Samuel was the guru and confirmed that he had been involved with murdering children in the past. When asked specifically about Adam, she merely stated:
I do not know anything about the murder of the child in London” and then immediately contradicted herself, by going on to state that “The child was killed in Lewisham. I don’t know where the head and limbs are. I think the boy was sacrificed because his parents had been brainwashed by Maharaj Ji’s teachings.”
She admitted to buying a pair of orange-red shorts during her time living in Germany, though could not confirm where they were anymore and claimed to have known nothing about the identical shorts found on Adams body. Once again, nothing solid could be tied to Joyce and she was released from custody with no charges.
Her ex-husband, Samuel Onojhighovie was questioned extensively. He was remarried in Ireland and claimed to have no knowledge of any cults, nor of Kingsley Ojo, though his details were found in a diary belonging to him. Remarkably he also claimed to have no clue who Joyce was either.
Of the 21 other arrests, most were thought to be minor players in a child trafficking ring headed by Kingsley Ojo. Amongst evidence found during the raids were hundreds of voodoo artefacts including a large rodents skull pierced clean through by a nail. Ojo was eventually sentenced to four and a half years in prison, followed by deportation.
Whilst Operation Maxim split up a child trafficking ring and laid waste to the hierarchy on every level, it brought police no closer to identifying nor understanding the death of Adam. And so it continued for many quiet years.
Not so positive identifications
In August of 2005, police buried Adams torso in an unmarked grave in Southwark cemetery, one mile from where his body was found, floating in the Thames. This time, there was no media circus, no press release and no fanfare. It was a quiet occasion attended only by a few prominent members of the investigation.
After the successes of Operation Maxim, the investigation had finally been left with no positive leads and over the following years, the case grew colder with every passing month. In 2007, Kingsley Ojo was granted early release and in return made a deal to work undercover for the police. He lead them along several dark alleys and dead ends before promptly slipping away back to Africa.
In 2011, Ronke Phillips, a journalist working for ITV, a British television station, tracked down Joyce Osagiede. She was suffering from severe mental health troubles and had recently recovered from a complete mental breakdown. During an interview, She told Phillips that she had, in fact, looked after Adam in Germany whilst she lived there. A photo had been uncovered that depicted Joyce alongside her two daughters and a young boy, which she confirmed to be Adam. She claimed the time she spent taking care of Adam was a “favour to a friend” and that she had passed him on to a man named “Bawa”. When Joyce came to England one month later, she was told that Adam was dead. She also confirmed his identity, naming him as 6-year-old “Ikponmwosa”. Finally, ten years after his death, Adams identity was confirmed. Or was it? Police were not sure to believe everything that Phillips discovered. Joyce’s mental health was a severe problem and a she was on a strong and muddled mix of medication at the time of the interview.
One year later, in 2012, the BBC also approached Joyce for an interview. She confirmed her earlier story, though this time named “Bawa” specifically as Kingsley Ojo. Curiously, on this occasion, she named Adam as one “Patrick Erhabor” and went on to explain that her previous identification of “Ikponmwosa” was a misunderstanding. The photo, in fact, was of her friend’s son Danny, who the BBC tracked down promptly and confirmed with the young man himself that he was the boy in the photo.
And there the story of Adam, or Ikponmwosa, or rather Patrick Erhabor or perhaps neither, falls deathly silent. Through the investigations intense efforts, a child trafficking ring had been destroyed along with the potential of shaking a dark cult involved with child sacrifice to its core. However much is left unknown, unanswered and many appear to have gotten away with one of England’s darkest recent crimes. Will O’Reilly, head of the investigation said later that:
“In West Africa, there are several reasons for human sacrifices – for power, money, or to protect a criminal enterprise. We believe the prime motive for the murder was to bring good fortune. We suspect Adam was killed to bring traffickers luck.”
Whilst the sacrifice hardly bought any luck to the ring, it did not overly harm those at the top either and it’s highly likely that whilst questions remain over Adam, the dark practices of the Black Coat Eyes of the Devil Guru Maharaj continue.