Inside chilling mystery of boy, 8, who vanished during Charles and Diana's wedding as sinister new theory revealed | The Sun

IT was the day of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer’s wedding and as millions watched the spectacle on TV Londoners took to the streets to celebrate.

Excited eight-year-old Vishal Mehrotra and his seven-year-old sister Manta were lucky enough to watch the royal procession from an office near Fleet Street where father Vishambar worked as a solicitor.

Below, crowds waved flags and craned their necks, desperate for a glimpse of the royal bride in her glass coach amid the pomp and ceremony.

Two hours later on July 29, 1981, Vishal was gone.

When his dad went home for a sleep following the procession, Vishal and his sister were left with their nanny but convinced her to let him walk home alone from a sweet shop.

She watched him cross a main street before going back into the shop to buy Manta a treat – then Vishal seemingly vanished into thin air.

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Seven months later his remains were found 50 miles away in a remote Alder Copse, near the village of Rogate, 13 miles from Goodwood in Sussex.

The case is still unsolved more than 40 years later.

Now evidence suggests that baby-faced Vishal, described as bright and independent, could have been the victim of notorious child predator Sidney Cooke, who led a gang of paedophiles known as the Dirty Dozen.

In a new documentary, Silent Witness star Emilia Fox and criminologist Professor David Wilson have discovered a series of links between Vishal’s murder and the gang’s killing of 14-year-old Jason Swift in 1985.

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Fairground worker Cooke, now 94, and his gang were also linked to several other child murders, including those of Barry Lewis, six, also in 1985, and Mark Tildesley in Berkshire a year earlier.

The show points out that Vishal, Jason Swift and Barry Lewis’  bodies were all abandoned in fields with no attempt to bury them.

It also reveals that twisted Cooke wrote ‘Goodwood’ in his diary on the day of the Royal Wedding – placing him in the vicinity of Vishal’s murder. The diary was seized from the house he shared with fellow pervert Dennis Moran who has since died.

A further delve into the case shows that there was a carnival close to the site of where Vishal was discovered. Cooke often ran a stall at funfairs and is thought to have lured Mark Tildesley away with the promise of a 50p bag of sweets.

He was never prosecuted for Mark’s death because he was already in prison.

Dr Graham Hill, an ex detective and criminologist who uncovered Cook’s diary entry, tells C4 viewers on In the Footsteps of Killers how the information is “highly significant”.

He said: “One we know about the diaries it brings into play the geographies.

“If (Cooke) was going to travel from Hackney to Goodwood the most direct route would take him through Putney, over Putney Bridge and down the A3 to Goodwood. That route takes you both past the abduction site of Vishal Mehrotra and the deposition site of his body.”

But the show also reveals a dark side of Vishal’s primary school. 

His best friend Ben Hulme, who had a sleepover at Vishal’s house the night before he vanished, says teachers at St James' primary school were abusive and cruel.

The private London school has since paid thousands of pounds in compensation to more than 40 former students after an inquiry found they had been subject to “criminal levels” of violence in the Eighties and Nineties.

Ben said: “I think there were a lot of things going on at the school that shouldn’t have been going on.

“Well, there were certain teachers that were abusive. Both ways, physically and mentally, emotionally. I did hear about sexual abuse. 

“I definitely got abused and this particular teacher I remember liked to watch me take cold showers while there was nobody else there.”

Ben said he “wasn’t sure” if Vishal endured any abuse, saying: “There were things going on… the abuse from certain teachers was shocking.  

“We can’t bring back Vishal, but if the truth was shone on it (his disappearance) at least that’s a consultation of some kind.”

Close to tears, he described Vishal as a fun, happy “honest kid” with “no pretence about him”.

He said: “We just liked doing what kids do, run around, play, make jokes. That kind of thing. So he was nothing but an ordinary kid…with a good warm heart really. We were close, we were very close.

“The last time I saw him was the day after I spent the night at his. It was the morning and I just waved goodbye to him.”

'I was in disbelief'

Ben said it wasn’t until Vishal’s body was found seven months later that he realised his friend was truly gone.

“That was when I really was in complete disbelief about it. Suddenly it fully sunk in that Vishal wouldn’t be coming to school anymore. That I wouldn’t see him again, you know. 

I can’t even imagine how his parents and sister would have felt.”

The documentary also tracked down the relative of a woman who is sure she saw Vishal on a train with one of Cooke’s gang, Leslie Bailey.

Paige Exelby said her grandmother recognised Vishal as a boy she had spotted on the District line on the day Diana married the future King. She told police but said nobody came to question her.

Years later she was reading about Cooke and his paedophile gang in a newspaper when she spotted Leslie Bailey’s picture.

She was convinced he was the man on the tube with the boy she saw.

Paige said: “There was no question for my nan. She saw Leslie Bailey on that train.”

Sidney Cooke, who went by the name of ‘Hissing Sid’, and his sick accomplices Leslie Bailey, Robert Oliver and Stephen Barrell, were convicted of manslaughter for killing Jason Swift, who was drugged and raped at a flat on the Kingsmead Housing Estate in Hackney.

Cooke has since received two life sentences for sex offences carried out between 1972 and 1981.

Bailey, nicknamed Catweazle, was later also convicted of the manslaughter of Mark Tildesley whom he raped in Cooke's caravan in 1984 while visiting a fairground near Wokingham, Berkshire.

Bailey, who was murdered in his prison cell in 1993, was also convicted of the murder of Barry Lewis, six, who was abducted in 1991 and sexually abused by up to eight men.

Criminologist David Wilson hopes Sussex Police will now quiz ailing Cooke over the murder of Vishal.

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He said: “I hope we’ve done enough to demonstrate to the Sussex Police that they should regard Sidney Cooke as a prime suspect and to interview him again before it’s too late for Vishambar and his family to get justice.”

In The Footsteps of Killers is available to watch on C4

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