London Witchcraft Murder Traced to Africa Child Trade

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"The Calabar bean is a very toxic plant, because the poison acts in such a way as to bring on total paralysis and an insanely painful death," he said.

Richard Hoskins, a U.K.-based expert on African religion and voodoo, says the Calabar bean, in combination with the other ingredients in Adam's gut, pointed to the West African country of Nigeria. There, witch doctors are known to use such potions for black magic.

"It's extraordinarily significant," he said. "The [beans are] ground down and then burnt in a pot. Taken together, this is the final clinching point that proves as near as certain that this was a sacrifice."

Hoskins says human sacrifice is a highly unusual aspect of black magic but that Nigerians themselves acknowledge that sacrificial killings often occur. Animal-blood offerings are deeply rooted in West African voodoo culture. It's regarded as a way to communicate with the spirit world and gain protection from ancestral deities.

"In any religion there is room for perversion of the religious doctrine," Davis said.

Deviant Practices

Davis added that deviant practices are most likely to occur in countries where there is civil unrest, poverty, and violence.

"It wouldn't surprise me if this strange, cultish behavior emerged out of the chaos and madness that is modern Nigeria," he said. In parts of Africa, most notably southern Africa, child parts are sometimes used by rogue witch doctors in a traditional form of medicine known as muti.

"It is felt by some that to kill a living person solely for the use of medicine is the most empowering form of medicine imaginable, and within that the most extreme form of all is to kill a child," Hoskins said.

The special police unit that investigates muti killings in South Africa estimates that there may be as many as a hundred such murders in the country each year.

Yet the West African connection was further strengthened when bone samples arrived from Nigeria for comparison with Adam's remains. Ken Pye and the forensic team were able to pinpoint Adam's birthplace to a region near Benin City in southwestern Nigeria. The closest match to Adam's bone chemistry came from Benin's main mortuary.

This bought another crime into the scope of the investigation—human trafficking.

West Africa is one of the areas that are the most exploited by criminals who sell people into modern-day slavery. According to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), some 200,000 children are trafficked out of western and central Africa each year. UNICEF defines child trafficking as the transportation and exploitation of unwilling or unknowing children, often for slave labor or sex work.

Police now suspected that Adam was brought to the U.K. by a child-smuggling ring, but not as child labor. Adam had been earmarked for human sacrifice. To find out why and by whom, murder squad detectives traveled to Nigeria and the city of Benin. They were beginning to close in on Adam's witchcraft killers, thanks to the clues revealed by forensic science.

While police have yet to secure a conviction for Adam's murder, they have succeeded in breaking up a major trafficking operation, possibly saving many other West African children from a life of slavery, prostitution, or even worse. With the trafficking gang's ringleader now in jail, detectives remain hopeful that Adam's killers can finally be brought to justice.

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