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300 African boys vanish in London

Missing Children
Crime, Law and Justice

LONDON, England -- Hundreds of young African boys have disappeared from schools in London, according to police investigating the murder of a child whose torso was found in the River Thames.

To try to identify the body, Metropolitan Police officers asked every education authority in London how many black boys aged between 4 and 7 had gone missing.

In one three-month period between July and September 2001, some 300 children had disappeared.

There was nothing to suggest that they had been murdered, but a lack of immigration records made it impossible to trace them.

Police investigating the murder suspect the boy was the victim of a ritual killing after being brought to Britain from Nigeria.

The headless and limbless body, named Adam by police, was found in the river near Tower Bridge in September 2001.

Tests suggest the boy, believed to have been between 4 and 6 years old and alive when he arrived in London, may have been poisoned.

Evidence found in Adam's lower intestine was identified as being the highly poisonous calabar bean, which police think may have been used to subdue him before his death.

Other contents in his stomach including crushed bone, and clay pellets impregnated with gold and quartz were discovered in his lower intestine.

Child welfare experts fear that many African children are brought into the country for the purposes of benefit fraud, passed between adults and, in the worst cases, physically and sexually abused.

Detective Chief Inspector Will O'Reilly told BBC Radio: "We were really looking at black children, black male children, aged between 4 and 7. And we found 300 of those that couldn't be accounted for. It was one of the lines of inquiry we had to follow up.

"In the main these were African children. I think there were one or two from the Caribbean."

The children's so-called carers often told police that the youngsters had returned to Africa.

"When we had information that they had left the country, we asked through Interpol for police to make inquiries in the local countries to which they (were said to have) returned. In the majority of cases, we got no reply on that," O'Reilly said.

"It is a large figure, far more than we anticipated when we started this line of inquiry."

Police managed to trace only two of the 300 missing children.

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