British police said they have cracked a major human trafficking network involving West Africa, with at least 21 people arrested in a string of raids around London early Tuesday.
Police said the arrests sprang from the investigation into the murder of a young Nigerian boy whose headless and limbless torso was found floating in the Thames River in September 2001.
The dead boy has not been identified, but police refer to him as Adam. Police suspect those arrested Tuesday are connected to Adam's death, as Detective Inspector Will O'Reilly explained on British television. "We believe Adam was trafficked into this country. This is a group specializing in trafficking from West Africa, and we believe we have broken that quite extensive organization today," Mr. O'Reilly said.
Those arrested are charged with various immigration and human trafficking offensives. But Mr. O'Reilly said evidence has been recovered that could provide links to Adam's murder.
For example, he said some chemical potions were seized, along with an animal skull that had nails hammered into it. Mr. O'Reilly said forensic investigators will compare those items with bone fragments and other contents recovered from Adam's stomach.
Police suspect Adam was murdered in a ritualistic killing and they have used DNA tracing to determine he came from the vicinity of Benin City in southeastern Nigeria.
Most of those arrested Tuesday were from Nigeria, and police said the raids stemmed from the arrest of a Nigerian man in Dublin earlier this month.
Police estimate as many as 250 West African children a month arrive at London area airports. They say some are put into domestic slavery in Britain, and others are sent off to continental Europe and forced into prostitution.