Vishal Mehrotra 8, was born in India before coming to the U.K. with his parents, Vishambar Mehrotra and Aruba Mehrita, in 1978. Those who knew Vishal described him as a smart and independent young boy; every day, he walked to his private school in St James’s, Queensgate, on his own. Several years after moving to the U.K., Vishambar and Aruba split up and Aruba flew back to live in India, leaving her family behind in the family home on Holmbush Road, Putney, South London.
It was the wedding of Charles and Diana on the 29th of July, 1981, and most businesses were closed for the afternoon so that workers could watch the marriage progression. Vishal, his father, sister, and their nanny went to watch the wedding like a vast majority of other Londoners. Afterwards, the family started to walk home through the crowded streets, heading towards their home. They arrived at the East Putney tube station where Vishal split up with his family; he was going home while the rest were going shopping. He was last seen crossing the road near Carlton Drive. The family home was only 300 yards away and it shouldn’t have taken long for Vishal to get back home. However, in that short distance, Vishal vanished.
Following his disappearance, an extensive search ensued, focusing on Putney, London. Within a few days, the number of searchers increased from 30 to 300, including men from the mounted branch, dog handlers, the Special Patrol Group and Thames river police. Police flew over the area with thermal image equipment which can detect objects hidden in undergrowth as well as shallow graves but to no avail. 1 Areas of wasteland were search and residents were asked to check any outbuildings, garages, and their gardens. It was initially theorised that Vishal could have been trying to make his way back to India. Vishambar refuted this theory and relayed his fears that Vishal was abducted: “I believe he has been taken by somebody. I don’t believe he has gone off on his own.”2
Shortly after the disappearance, the first lead came in and it gave Vishal’s family hope that he was still alive. Two people called local police to inform them that they had seen Vishal on a bus heading towards Chelsea. The glimmer of hope didn’t last long, however, when detectives could find no sign of Vishal. Two weeks later, another tip was called in by two witnesses who told police that they saw an “Asian boy” with a middle-aged man on the day Vishal disappeared. Following the tip, Detective Chief Inspector Jim Begg publicly announced: “We can’t rule out the possibility of abduction but time is running out. I’m keeping my options open, but without some concrete help from the public, the outlook is pessimistic. With every day that passes by, the chances of his being found alive diminish.”3
The disappearance went cold until the 25th of February, 1982, when what became of Vishal finally came to light. Two pigeon shooters were walking past a copse in Rogate, Sussex, when they came across a human skull. Nearby, they found a rib-cage buried in a deep bog. The remains were subsequently identified as Vishal Mehrotra. Following the discovery, Vishal’s remains were cremated, according to Hindu tradition, and he was flown to India for immersion in the Ganges. No other remains – or clothing – was found so it was difficult to determine how Vishal died. However, it was widely accepted that he had been abducted and murdered due to the fact that he was found 30 miles from his home and buried in a bog. It was determined that Vishal had probably been murdered on or around the same day he disappeared.
Following the discovery, a witness came forward to say he had seen a suspicious car parked on the A272 between Rogate and Petersfield – the same area Vishal’s remains were found. Another came forward to report seeing a tall man accompanying an Asian boy three miles from Rogate. He was wearing a khaki hat and jacket. Neither the driver nor the man was ever identified. Several months later, Vishambar received an anonymous phone call from somebody saying that Vishal’s abduction was connected to a group of influential pedophiles associated with the Elm Guest House, located less than a mile from where Vishal vanished. Vishambar recorded the bizarre phone call and took it to police at the time but they refused to investigate because the allegation implicated “judges and politicians.” This led Vishambar to believe that there was a cover-up involved in the murder of his son.
It wouldn’t be until 2014, when a detective who investigated the murder, voiced her concerns of a “cover-up” in regards to the Elm Guest House pedophile ring. Detective Jackie Malton publicly announced that the investigation into the murder may have been compromised by the “power of politicians” at the time.4 “There is clear evidence that something was happening at that guesthouse,” she said. “If nothing has been done about it in retrospect, then Mr. Mehrotra is right. Either the police disbelieved it, or they covered it up in one way or another.” A new inquiry into the Elm Guest House was opened when a 46-year-old businessman came forward to claim they had been sexually abused at the premise where he also witnessed three young boys being killed with one allegedly being strangled by a Conservative MP during a lurid sex game.
It was revealed that Sir Peter Morrison, the late former deputy chairman of the Conservative Party and known child molester, was the Conservative MP allegedly involved in Vishal’s murder. “We were out in the middle of nowhere and this little boy was dumped less than two miles from where I lived. And apparently he was abducted and taken to the same place where I was assaulted. To me, there are too many coincidences. It’s got to be worth looking at,” said the businessman.5 Morrison was exposed as a child abuser three years after his death in 1998.
Scotland Yard opened Operation Fairbank to look into the allegations that well-known political figures had been involved in a pedophile ring and cover-up. Following the new inquiry, a new strand was set up titled Operation Midland and several prominent figures were accused of being involved in the pedophile ring. The following year, it was announced that the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) was to open an investigation into the claims that Scotland Yard had covered up the murder. When informed that case was being looked into, Vishambar responded: “I was very pleasantly surprised because it seems that somebody is taking things a bit seriously for the first time in 33 years. It was thanks to the media that something is happening. Whether they uncover something, time will tell.”6
At the time of the murder, police had told Vishal’s family that they were clueless and hadn’t made any arrests. However, it was discovered that detectives had kept quiet about quizzing up to five suspects. Moreover, a senior officer admitted that they could have been more thorough in checking out alibis. The inquest dossier also found that detectives dismissed the fact that a pair of adult shoes were found alongside Vishal’s body and failed to find two people that were seen throwing a sack over a fence close to where Vishal was found.
A subsequent inquiry found that the men who had been publicly named and investigated by Operation Midland had been victims of false allegations.
In addition to the cover-up conspiracy, there were several others persons of interest throughout the years. In 2001, former labourer Brian Field was sentenced to life imprisonment after he was convicted of the rape and murder of 14-year-old Roy Tutill, who was killed in 1968. He was linked to the murder of Tutil when he was stopped for drunk driving and a DNA profile was taken. Following his arrest, it was announced that he would be questioned in regards to the murder of Vishal.7 However, no evidence could ever tie Field to the murder of Vishal. Another line of enquiry came in 2015 when the Daily Mirror reported that Vishal could have potentially been abducted by Sidney Cook, a fairground worker and convicted child molester and suspected serial killer who was serving a life sentence. A police review (which was published due to Freedom of Information) of the case mentioned Cooke eight times and one informant told police that “Cooke and his associates” claimed at least twelve victims, one of which was an “Asian boy.” When quizzed about the revelations, police refused to say whether or not Cooke was questioned in regards to the murder of Vishal.8
To this day, nobody has ever been charged with the murder of Vishal Mehrotra.
- The Guardian, 11 August, 1981 – “Police Intensify Search for Missing Boy”
- The Guardian, 4 August, 1981 – “Boy, 8, Feared Abducted”
- The Guardian, 10 August, 1981 – “Police Step up Hunt for Missing Boy”
- The Daily Telegraph, 20 November, 2014 – “Metropolitan Police Detective’s Fears of Westminster Paedophile ‘Cover-Up’”
- International Business Times, 5 January, 2015 – “Thatcher’s Close Aide Sir Peter Morrison ‘Linked to Child Murder’”
- The Sunday Telegraph, 3 March, 2015 – “IPCC to Investigate Police ‘Cover Up’ of Eight Year Old Boy’s Murder”
- East Sussex County Publications, 20 November, 2011 – “Killer Linked to Child Deaths”
- The People, 31 May, 2015 – “Monster Cooke Linked to Diana Wedding Victim”