February 25, 1982
Rogate, West Sussex, England
The body of 8-year-old Vishal Mehrotra is found

The Mehrotra family watched the Royal wedding parade on July 29, 1981, celebrating the marriage of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer, before returning home. Later in the day, Vishal and his younger sister, accompanied by their nanny, went to a sweet shop for chocolates and cough syrup. Vishal separated from his nanny and sister to walk through the crowded streets to his Putney, London home by himself. He was not seen again.

Vishal Mehrotra
via BBC

During the course of the investigation into Vishal’s disappearance, some 14,000 people were interviewed and hundreds of sightings reported. Police increased their search efforts from 30 to 100 officers and employed thermal imaging from aircrafts to locate a possible gravesite, but were unsuccessful. Months after Vishal’s disappearance, his father, Vishambar Mehrotra, received a phone call suggesting Vishal had been a victim of a child molestation ring. The phone call was recorded and a copy given to police, but it was dismissed as a crank call and not followed up upon.

Seven months after Vishal’s disappearance, two pigeon-shooters found partial human remains about 30 miles (48 km) from his home. The human skull and parts of a rib cage were identified as belonging to the missing Vishal. “We only found part of the skeleton,” Detective Inspector John Ryder told the press. “There is a sheer lack of evidence to say it was murder. The available facts are of a home-loving boy found 30 miles away in a secluded place. No clothing was found. Why?”

“My theory is that it was a sexual attack,” Vishambar, a solicitor, stated. “But that cannot be established forensically until the whole body is found. They only found the skull and remains of the top torso.”

Little progress was made in the case, although some suspects have been investigated, including Sidney Cooke, a killer convicted of the rape and murder of three boys. As of February 2021, Cooke has not been charged in relation to Vishal’s case.

In 2014, Vishambar criticized the efforts of investigators during an interview. “After 30 years the police are still failing to find the person responsible for my son’s death. I have come to the conclusion that maybe, for whatever reason, they have not really done their homework. If high-profile people were involved this must be exposed, if there was a cover-up I need to know. There was information passed to me which I gave the police at the time, but it was never looked at and the trail went cold. I taped the whole conversation and gave a copy to the police. They just dismissed it, said it was probably a crank call. If the police have any sympathy for us as a family, for what we have been through and are still going through, they should be in touch with me now to tell me that this has come to light, they need to be looking at my son’s case in connection with this. I have not heard from them on this, I have not heard from them for years and years. A detective contacted me 10 years or so after my son’s death to say he was going to look at it again, to reinvestigate. Then nothing. It all went quiet.”

The BBC conducted its own investigation in Vishal’s case and found evidence of a 1982 police interview with a man who had confessed to killing Vishal. The suspect later retracted his confession, claiming he made the admission with the intention of suing the police for wrongful arrest. He was deemed “an inveterate liar” by police, but has not been eliminated as a suspect. The BBC also found interviews the police had conducted with three convicted child predators, one of whom had written a document entitled “Vishal.” Police have stated they would not disclose the information gathered, but have declared the investigations into the information has been thorough.

“Why would my son’s name appear on a document more or less contemporaneously written by a paedophile which is in the possession of the police and the police came to the conclusion that there is nothing more to investigate?” Vishambar asked. “I’m utterly amazed and shocked. My conclusion is simple; they are trying to brush this under the carpet as far as possible – and it started 38 years ago. I think they’re just a bit too tired of it.”

Sussex Police responded by stating they did not consider the information gained in the interviews to be a “major revelation.” A police spokesperson also told reporters, “Even after nearly 40 years, we will continue to take any opportunity to pursue any new lines of inquiry that might lead to justice being obtained for Vishal and his family.”

Vishal’s case remains unsolved.

Oakley, Ben. 1982: 365 Days of True Crime, Cold Case Murder, and Serial Killers. Twelvetrees Publishing, 2021
Campbell, Colin. “Vishal Mehrotra: New information in 1982 murder case.” BBC. October 22, 2020. Accessed: February 25, 2021. https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-sussex-54611873
Campbell, Colin. “Confession found in Vishal Mehrotra unsolved murder review.” BBC. July 30, 2020. Accessed: February 25, 2021. https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-sussex-53568304
Campbell, Colin. “Vishal Mehrotra: Father pleads for fresh inquiry into son’s murder.” BBC. July 13, 2020. Accessed: February 25, 2021. https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-sussex-53335896
Laville, Sandra and Halliday, Josh. “Paedophile ring allegations: police are failing us, murdered boy’s father says.” The Guardian. November 19, 2014. Accessed: February 25, 2021. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/nov/19/paedophile-ring-allegations-elm-house
Bhatia, Shyam. “Why death of Vishal will remain a mystery.” The Observer [London, England]. February 20, 1983
Davies, Nick. “Searching for signs of those who go missing.” The Guardian [London, England]. August 18, 1981
Davies, Nick. “Police intensify search for missing boy.” The Guardian. August 11, 1981
“Missing boy ‘seen on bus’.” The Guardian. August 5, 1981
“Search for missing boy.” The Guardian. August 3, 1981

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