Case of Boy who Disappeared from Putney To Be Re-examined

Police tell Vishal Mehrotra's father they are making further inquiries

Vishal Mehrotra

May 11, 2023

The investigation into the murder of a schoolboy who disappeared from Putney in 1981 looks set to be revived after a BBC podcast revealed new information on the case.

Eight-year-old Vishal Mehrotra vanished as he was walking home to Holmbush Road from the shops on the day of the royal wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer in July 1981. He had been left in the care of a nanny who had taken Vishal and his sister to buy sweets at a newsagent. The children said they had sore throats and the nanny decided to go to the High Street to buy medicine. Vishal said he was too tired and wanted to walk home. He was independent and was already walking home from school alone, so she consented after making sure she had seen him safely cross the main road. That was the last time they saw him alive.

There were hundreds of reported sightings and over 14,000 people were interviewed during the inquiry. Shortly after the disappearance Vishambar Mehrotra, Vishal's father, received a call from a male prostitute who claimed his son had been abducted from Putney and taken to the Elm Guest House in Barnes in 1981 where prominent figures were involved in the abuse of children.

Seven months later his body was found in woodland in Sussex, but his killer or killers have never been brought to justice.

In the earlier stage of the investigation, the focus was on a gang of paedophiles led by Sidney Cooke who were believed to have abducted and killed several boys around Vishal’s age in the early eighties. The inquiry was later led up a blind alley by the false testimony of Carl Beech who prompted the investigations of Operation Midland.

More recently BBC journalist Colin Campbell has undertaken a three-year investigation into the case and it his findings that have been serialised in the BBC Sounds podcast Vishal which was released last month. He is suggesting a possible connection between Vishal's death and a paedophile ring with links to Sussex and West London.

Since the day of his son’s disappearance, Vishambar Mehrotra has campaigned for the investigation to continue and this week he says he has been told by detectives from Sussex Police that they have been given a clear direction to advance the case.

He is quoted by the BBC as saying, "Well, I am very pleased but I am also sceptical because I am not so sure how much and when they are going to actually investigate."

He added that he received an apology from the detectives for their failure to make a link between a document that was found in the possession of convicted paedophile, Nicholas Douglass which he had titled ‘Vishal’. The police did not make the link with the case until they noticed it in an unrelated investigation four years ago. Douglass had finished updating the document in 1982, the year after Vishal’s death.

When questioned by the BBC in 2020, Douglass said he had used the name because it had been in his head due to the massive publicity about the case and therefore it was the first name he could think of.

Sussex Police issued a statement saying, "Detectives visited the father of Vishal Mehrotra to offer further reassurance that all viable lines of enquiry, including from any recent media coverage, will be pursued.

"The Surrey and Sussex Major Crime Team continues to assess any further lines of enquiry for criminal investigation as a result of a Channel 4 documentary and BBC podcast, recently broadcast.

"Senior detectives met with Vishal’s father on Wednesday (May 10) to discuss the documentary and podcast series and to inform him that some further enquiries were being carried out as a result.

"The force also apologised for an oversight during an investigation conducted in the mid-1990s by Sussex Police, which had a potential link to Vishal’s death. It concerned a document titled ‘Vishal’ that was found as part of an investigation into historic child sexual abuse at Muntham House School in West Sussex.

"The document was found by police in 1996 and enquiries were carried out in the context of the Muntham House investigation, but it wasn’t until 2019 during the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse that any potential link was made to the murder of Vishal Mehrotra.

"Sussex Police apologised to Vishal’s father that this link was not made sooner."

Detective Superintendent Mark Chapman said, “We acknowledge the ongoing distress to Mr Mehrotra and Vishal’s wider family and their need to find answers to what happened to Vishal in 1981.

“The force is committed to identifying those responsible for Vishal’s tragic death and to delivering justice for Vishal and his family.

“Extensive and thorough police enquiries have been completed to date but we remain open to and welcome any new information, and officers will continue to follow-up on any reasonable and viable lines of enquiry.”

Anyone with information relating to the case is urged to get in touch with police online or by calling 101 quoting Operation Moor. Alternatively, information can be passed anonymously via the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.


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