Vishal Mehrotra: Racism blamed for failure to solve 40-year-old murder

By Colin Campbell
BBC South East Special Correspondent

Published
image captionVishal Mehrotra was walking home from watching the Royal wedding parade in 1981 when he disappeared

The father of a murdered schoolboy who went missing 40 years ago claims police failed to catch his killer because of institutional racism.

Vishal Mehrotra, eight, disappeared from west London in July 1981, and his remains were found in Rogate, West Sussex, seven months later.

Four decades later, it has emerged that Vishal's case was only reviewed by Sussex Police once.

The force said it "firmly refutes" allegations of institutional racism.

Vishambar Mehrotra, Vishal's father and a retired magistrate, said he has been "begging" police to review the case into his son's death.

He added: "I have no doubt that there is racism here, otherwise why would they try always to brush it under the carpet?"

image captionVishambar Mehrotra said he and his son deserve answers

Referring to Madeline McCann, who disappeared in 2007 aged three, he said: "When it comes to white children......they'll fly to Portugal, Germany, everywhere, and years have gone by, and they will still investigate and keep looking, and money doesn't seem to be a problem.

"But for my son, I can't see that they've done anything constructive by way of investigation at all."

Sussex Police claimed it reviewed the case in 2005, but an investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), now the Independent Office for Police Conduct, said a formal procedure did not take place.

However, the force did carry out a review 10 years later titled "Operation Moor", which was published in 2017.

Mr Mehrotra said one review in four decades was "absolutely shameful".

image captionVishal Mehrotra's partial remains were found in woodland on a farm near the Hampshire border

The IPCC found that the force did not even consider the case for review up until it launched its inquiry in 2015.

This goes against Sussex Police's own policy and national guidance that unresolved cases should be considered for review every two years.

A spokesman for the force said: "We firmly refute any suggestion that our enquiries over the past 40 years have been hampered or influenced in any way by 'institutional racism'.

"Reports of the 1982 investigation... make very clear the thorough and considered nature of detailed and painstaking work that officers and staff have carried out."

Vishal went missing on the day of the Royal Wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer - 29 July 1981. He and his family had been in central London watching the parade and were on their way home to Putney when he disappeared.

Last year, the BBC revealed new information in the case, including a child abuser found with a document in his possession titled 'Vishal'.

In support of his London constituent, in December 2020 MP Dominic Raab wrote to Sussex Police, to establish if they were investigating the leads.

The force insisted it had "completed thorough and carefully considered inquiries", but the information provided "no viable or credible lines of inquiry".

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