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L. Neil Smith's
Number 486, September 28, 2008

"We ought to show that we are serious about liberty."

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Thames Torso Killing: Sacrifice or Extremist Christian Scam?
by Jimmy Lee Shreeve

Attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise

In 2001, the torso of a little black boy was found floating in the River Thames. The case has never been solved. But Scotland Yard believe it was a Juju ritual human sacrifice. British journalist Jimmy Lee Shreeve, however, has uncovered evidence to suggest that extremist Christians hi-jacked the investigation in a bid to revive the "satanic panic" of the 1980s.

On 21 September, 2001, the torso of an African boy—believed to have been aged between 4 and 8—was hauled out of London's River Thames by a police launch, alongside the Globe Theatre in Southwark. It was immediately apparent that the unfortunate boy had been the victim of a bizarre and macabre murder. His head and limbs had been sliced off with the precision of a master butcher or surgeon, and oddly, the orange shorts he was wearing appeared to have been put on after his death.

Seven years on the police still haven't made an arrest. But they believe they know the motive for the killing. At first they were baffled, but then, on the advice of various experts, they came to the conclusion that the boy had been sacrificed by nefarious African sorcerers in a savage ritual to ancient pagan gods.

Not surprisingly, the nation was shocked. It was like something out of the 1960s satanic horror novels by Dennis Wheatley, complete with Juju (African witchcraft) practitioners and dark, devilish gods with a thirst for human blood.

It seemed like satan had really come to the suburbs.

But were dark sorcerers really operating on British shores? And was Adam really killed as an offering to the spirits in a bid to reap material rewards in this world? Or was something else going on?

As an author and journalist—and as someone with a long-time interest in the arcane—I decided to find out. One thing I was certain of was that those into witchcraft, voodoo and the occult—even satanists (most of whom are typically atheist and rationalistic)—are mostly intelligent and upstanding citizens, contrary to popular opinion. So I wasn't about to swallow the sacrifice notion as easily as I might a glass of Rebel Yell bourbon.

The first thing I did was look at the facts of the case. Although police have never been able to identify the boy (hence they nicknamed him "Adam"), the forensics' team at Scotland Yard were able to pinpoint his place of origin to the area around Benin City in West Africa. Chillingly, they also discovered that Adam had been poisoned 48 hours before his death with the Calabar bean, a West African trailing vine, (also known for its beneficial properties) which would have left him paralyzed while his throat was cut.

Commenting on the case in September 2002, Commander Andy Baker—who led the investigation with D.I. Will O'Reilly—said: "Just imagine your worst nightmare and that would be nowhere near."

But the most galling part about the case for the police was it just didn't add up. Adam's head and limbs had been cut off, which made him nigh on impossible to identify. Yet his torso had been dumped in the Thames without being weighed down—virtually guaranteeing its discovery.

The only similar case on record was in 1969, when the torso of a black baby girl was found in Epping Forest, just north of London. Officers at the time believed the girl's Northwest African father, who fled the country to evade arrest, may have cut off his daughter's head, legs and arms during a ritual to bring him good luck.

The idea that a similar fate may have befallen Adam was apparently confirmed when Scotland Yard detectives were contacted by Colonel Kobus Jonker, the retired head and founder of the South African Police Service's occult unit (now disbanded). What was not revealed by the British police was that he was a crusading born-again Christian who saw the machinations of satan in everything. He told the Financial Times, for example, that he had thwarted a female assassin with the power of prayer and had once seen a pentagram (occult symbol) inexplicably appear on a suspect's arm.

Jonker said he happened to be on holiday in the UK when the Adam story broke and offered the police the benefit of his experience in investigating ritualistic crimes. He told detectives that around 300 ritual slayings, often of children, occur every year in his country and in Nigeria. In Jonker's opinion, Adam had also fallen victim to evil sorcerers working on the dark side of Juju.

Encouraged by the fact that they now had a motive, but being completely unfamiliar with occult-related crime, detectives went on a research trip to South Africa, where they consulted with the local police department's occult unit and spoke to traditional healers and shamans.

One "sangoma" or medicine man they spoke to—Credo Mutwa—told them that the ritual sacrifice of Adam was likely to a water deity called Oshun and would have been carried out by a gang of people strengthening themselves magically to do some "very ugly crimes". The medicine man added that the orange shorts found on Adam's torso would have been put on after his death and that the colour orange was sacred to Oshun.

It all seemed so very plausible.

Yet according to Adam Kuper, a professor of anthropology at Burnel University, in the West of England, who grew up in South Africa, however, what Credo Mutwa said is all nonsense.

"The police claimed, quite wrongly, that a Yoruba [West African] river god, Oshun, is associated with the colour orange, and that human sacrifices are made to him," he said, " sacrifices of this kind have been documented for more than a century."

Kuper went on to dismiss Scotland Yard's investigation of the Adam case as nothing more than "a farrago of contemporary myths" about witchcraft and Africans. As far as he is concerned the police have "busily reinforced dangerous delusions".

Some believe something even more sinister was going on with the Adam case—and totally dispute the theory that he was ritually killed. Tony Rhodes of the Subculture Alternatives Freedom Foundation (SAFF), a non-profit organisation defending minority subcultures like neo-paganism against victimization and slander, is one. He claims that some of those involved in prompting Scotland Yard to think along the lines of human sacrifice were originally involved in the now discredited Satanic Ritual Abuse Myth (SRAM), that swept Britain (and the U.S., Europe and South Africa) in the 1980s and early 1990s.

"Because the Satanic Ritual Abuse Myth was discredited, fundamentalist Christians like Colonel Kobus Jonker found themselves sowing their misinformation on fallow ground—until the Adam case came along," says Rhodes. "They simply modified the original scare to fit the details of the case and injected a black context, then fed it back to the British police."

Rhodes also alleges that Jonker was not on holiday over here when the Adam case broke, as he claimed.

"On the very weekend that the Thames torso was discovered Jonker had travelled to Britain to speak at one of the Satan Seminars still held by the Ritual Abuse Information Network (RAIN)," says Rhodes. "RAIN was originally set up in 1989 by the Satan-hunter social workers who promoted the Satanic Ritual Abuse Myth in all the failed cases which caught the headlines during the 1990s, including the Rochdale and Orkney tragedies."

According to Rhodes there is therefore a direct link with the original Satan hunters in social work and Colonel Jonker.

"The fact is, Jonker was already working with the discredited band of Satan hunters in Britain to establish the idea of Satanic Ritual Abuse in Africa before Adam's body was found in the Thames," says Rhodes. "He stepped in to give 'expert' evidence to the Metropolitan police about the so-called Voodoo killing of Adam—based on nothing more than his religious fundamentalist ideas about traditional [pagan] spirituality in South Africa."

Whether Rhodes' analysis is correct or not won't become clear until someone is arrested for the murder of Adam. But even if it does turn out that Adam was sacrificed by nefarious sorcerers, is it really wise to have extremist Christians—with a very definite agenda—advising the police? In cases such as this, the result is likely to be that innocent groups become unfairly demonised.

That aside, the Thames torso case also highlights how greater credence is still given by the authorities to Christian groups—as if it is a given that they are "good". While anything else, such as voodoo or satanism, is bad.

I'm personally wary of all religious belief systems (except perhaps the satanism of the late Anton Lavey because that is essentially atheist and objectivist, and arguably isn't a religion). But the fact is, a lot of people around the world do hold spiritual beliefs. That is their choice. But we must not allow our police or other authorities to operate as if Christianity is somehow more decent and moral than other belief systems, even if those belief systems might be considered "dark" by those of the Christian faith. And besides, Christianity has got more than its fair share of blood and abuse on its hands.

In the end, religious belief should not only be kept separate from state, it should also be kept out of all institutions, including the police. Sadly, even where it is supposed to be separate, religious belief is all too often allowed to insidiously creep in.

The full story of Jimmy Lee Shreeve's investigation into the Thames Torso case is related in chapter 2 of his U.S. book Human Sacrifice: A Shocking Expose Of Ritual Killings Worldwide (Barricade 2008). Visit his website at:

Further Information

Sub-culture Alternatives Freedom Foundation (SAFF)

Professor Adam Kuper

South African Police Service


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