Vishal Mehrotra: Putney – Rogate Fairground Connection

The recent LBC investigation into the disappearance and murder of Vishal Mehrotra and the release following a Freedom of Information Request of the report into Operation Mehrotra raises a number of intriguing questions. Not least the revelation that the principle suspects were “all fairground workers”, we were aware that both Sidney Cooke and Lennie Smith had worked at fairgrounds but had others we were unaware of also worked at fairgrounds ?

The Operation Mehrotra report also mentions that there were fairgrounds “in operation at Putney and Wandsworth on the day of Vishal’s disappearance.” Was this significant ?


‘Lambs to the Slaughter’ by Ted Oliver and Ramsay Smith, which is primarily focused on the murders of Jason Swift, Barry Lewis, and Mark Tildesley  also makes a reference to fairgrounds in relation to Vishal Mehrotra disappearance and murder but it is a little ambiguous:

“Nine-year-old Vishal had vanished on Royal Wedding Day in July 1981 in Putney High Street after telling his nanny that he was going to walk the short distance home on his own. His naked body was discovered in a shallow grave near Rogate in Surrey in February 1982. A fair had been in that area around the time of his disappearance.”  [p.82]
Does this passage mean that there was a fairground at Putney or at Rogate where Vishal’s remains were found ?
It’s unclear.
However, another passage in another book, ‘Dr. Iain West’s Casebook’ by Chester Stern is clearer. As we can see from the Operation Mehrotra report, Dr. Iain West was the pathologist in the Vishal Mehrotra case.
But the information that some of the fairground workers that regularly camped for Winter near the spot in Rogate, West Sussex where Vishal Mehrotra’s remains had been found had also worked at the fairground in Putney on the very day Vishal had disappeared had come, as Chester Stern recollects, not from Dr. Iain West but from a senior Metropolitan Police officer.
Perhaps this is what Jackie Malton, a Detective Sergeant in the original investigation into Vishal’s disappearance was referring to when in the LBC’s ‘What Happened to Vishal?’ she said, “Where the body was found… I find quite interesting because Rogate is a beautiful part of West Sussex and he was found in marshland on the edge of some farmland… I don’t think that that is just a random place to put a body.”


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21 responses to “Vishal Mehrotra: Putney – Rogate Fairground Connection

  1. Owen

    Well, Rolf Harris certainly distracted attention away from Vishal’s fate.

  2. It is interesting that Philip Vivian Thompson, was a geologist, and the body was found in marshland. He also owned a red Lancia car, and his address was given as Parsons Green, S.W. London?

    • It seems Thompson was based in Brixton during the years in question. “Thompson, of Parsons Green” sounds like media-speak for where he lived when charged.

      The Berlin/army doctor connection does hint that he had contacts. This is the Paul Morris mentioned.

      Best I’ve found on Ranelagh is W. Clarkson’s Bindon biog. North of the river but same stretch of railway. I knew an old fella in Wandsworth, sadly passed on, who may have been able to tell me more. I suspect it’s unrelated to this, but all info adds light and shade to what we know.

  3. Finally, breaking the mental cage of decades old preconceptions – ?
    Totally speculative alternate scenarios:
    1) Little boy playing on rail passover falls under train and is dismembered. Upper torso thrown from rails, lower torso trapped in undercarriage, carried far away and ground to nothingness. Upper torso discovered by member of police-averse community who won’t report it, but buries it out of his/her own sense of respect to the dead.
    2) Little boy crossing roadway is mown down by drunk driver in rare vehicle. There are no witnesses. Drunk puts boys body in boot, pulls into the first byway, removes identifying clothing, buries him in shallow grave. Animals scavenge the body, separate lower torso, carry it away and scatter it again to nothingness.

    In either scenario, probably wouldn’t come forward for fear of being thoughtn a pedo in current atmosphere. Maybe offer immunity in exchange for truth with proof?

    • Andrew

      You cannot get onto the rail line in Putney. Vishal was seen at 4/5 pm in Deodar Road. seen on a Northern Line Train. And seen later, wearing the same clothes, wet, getting on a 49 bus? All these sightings were right.

      • @andrew – I’m not suggesting my speculative scenarios, above, as solutions.
        I’m thinking that, if the murderous pedo gang scenario wasn’t the cause of Vishal’s death, or of his burial, if there were some other circumstance to those events (I have no idea what that might be, of course) – then perhaps the constant inclusion of that scenario in publicity of the case might actually dissuade more involved witnesses. If persons involved in either his death or his burial were not murderous pedos, would they ever reveal themselves knowing that they would widely be assumed to be one by many people, and probably to the end of their lives.

        Guilt can be a powerful motivator for people to confess what they know, but fear can be an even more powerful inhibitor.
        I’ve often thought, watching missing child cases in particular stay cold for month after month, year after year, decade after decade – that perhaps after a certain length of time it might not be indecent to ease up on the fear factor a bit so that the guilt factor can win out. Does there come a time when it would be ok to publicize a case, (not Vishal’s in particular, but any such case), without any mention of suspected pedo involvement, and then address whomever might be involved, directly – perhaps like:
        “If you had any involvement in this child’s disappearance/ death/ hiding/burying of their body, and your involvement did not involve an offence of [the most serious level] – please come forward. Your involvement will be kept confidential and you will not be prosecuted if your statement is truthful”. -?

        I’d give the family members a right to make such a call, if it were up to me.

    • dpack

      1 seems unlikely

      2 possible but if the unfortunate lad was in south london on an afternoon the chances of not being seen running him over and scooping him up seems very unlikely.

  4. Andy Barnett

    Iain West certainly had an interesting career:

  5. The sighting of Vishal, in Deodar Road, just outside the entrance to Wandsworth Park that day, was at 4pm. That seems to be a very positive sighting. The sighting near Rogate was at 3-30?

    Police had Sidney Cookes diary, which listed all the fairgrounds he worked at, and dates, from operation Orchid.

    The man near Rogate described as tall, slim, pale complextion. The car was a red Lancia, unusual, and expensive, not really what fairground people used then?

    • dpack

      by wandsworth park do we mean king georges park or wandsworth common?

      and by putney do we mean lower putney common(by the river) or putney heath by tibbets corner?

      it would affect the logistics of travel quite a bit although the whole relevant area is only a few miles across south london is bigger than it’s footprint might suggest.

      • King Georges park, which has an entrance at the end of deodar Road?
        From Deodar Road, using Putney Station it took me 25 minutes to reach the Northern Line. Opposite the foot of the steps in Deodar Road, is a long line of arches under thr railway line.
        They were probably used as garages, and maybe Leslie Bailey stole a car from there, to get to the Northern Line. He could drive. He must have come back to Vishal, gave him the chocolate bar, then asked him to wait again?
        When the woman first saw Vishal he had no chocolate bar, five to ten minutes later he had one?

      • wandsworth Park, the one at the end of Deodar Road?

    • Redondo

      Yeah, Wandsworth Park is beside the river next to Deodar Road. King George’s Park is behind the Arndale Centre in the High St, and neither are that near Wandsworth Common. There *was* a weekend show of some kind, including a funfair, in KGP the weekend before the wedding, though I couldn’t find details as to whose funfair. No relevant ads for fairs that I could find in the Boro News either.

      I noticed the lock ups under the arches, and would be interested to know more on them. The arches directly north of the river housed (among others) the Ranelagh Yacht Club, a gangland drinking den best known for John Bindon killing someone there in 1978. Unlikely to be connected, but a sign that this stretch of arches had some nefarious history/connections.

      • Andrew

        That is interesting. Vishal was seen at 4 pm by a woman, standing at the bottom of the stairs to the bridge. Five to ten minutes later, she swa him again, but this time he had a chocolate bar.
        I did not notice any near by shops?
        The Drinking Den sounds interesting as well. Cooke did not know Leslie Bailey at that time. Why was he hanging around Putney, if he had been released from Wandsworth Prison in the morning?
        Would an expensive Lancia sports car have been kept in the arches?

  6. joekano76

    Reblogged this on Floating-voter.

  7. Gary

    Something at the back of my mind was triggered with the reference to fairgrounds. During the investigation of the murders (in Scotland) for which Robert Black was later to be convicted, there had been mention of fairgrounds. They had not been snatched from fairgrounds nor had Black been working at one, it looks like it was a line of inquiry that went dead before Black was caught in the act.

    Strange, though that it should come up at all.

    • Sabre

      Black lived in Eastbank Stamford Hill just a few miles from Kingsmead Estate. I don’t know if Cooke and Black new each other.

  8. chrisb

    What book is the page photographed taken from?

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