Sunday Express, 20th September 1981
MISSING BOY’S MOTHER FLIES 4,000 MILES TO PRAY AT A HINDU TEMPLE (Sunday Express, 20th September 1981)
On Wednesday morning, 31-year-old Mrs Aruna Mehrotra will leave her home in England on a long journey of sadness and faith. She will fly more than 4,000 miles to New Delhi. Relatives and friends will meet her and comfort her, and then Mrs Mehrotra will prepare for a solemn ritual a few days later.
For next Sunday morning, at 4 o’clock, well before the sun rises, Mrs Mehrotra will put on a specially-made saffron-coloured sari and travel 20 miles by car north along a bumpy road to an ancient stone Hindu temple.
Inside the temple, she will light the wicks of candles which she will have prepared the night before, in containers of dried mud filled with a wax of clarified Indian buffalo milk.
Then she will kneel at an altar which has a gold statue of the mother goddess Durga, and she will pray to her gods for just one thing—the safe return of her son, Vishal.
It was on July 29 that eight-year-old Vishal vanished near his home in Holmbush Road, Putney, south-west London after returning from St. Paul’s where, with his father, he had watched the Royal procession for the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana.
A massive police search which is still going on has revealed nothing, and for Vishal’s parents there has been only the torment and agony, the wondering and the worry of waiting.
Mrs Mehrotra’s trip has been carefully planned. Next Sunday is Vishal’s ninth birthday.
And the temple of Durga is the family temple—and the same one which Vishal visited in 1979 on his birthday, during a holiday to India.
To Hindus, the mother goddess Durga protects against all violence and it is to her that Mrs Mehrotra will be praying that nothing violent has happened to Vishal.
Despite fading chances that her son is safe, Mrs Mehrotra maintains a mother’s hope that Vishal is well and will return one day soon.
Last Tuesday morning, Mrs Mehrotra went to St James’ School in Queen’s Gate, London—just in case Vishal had turned up for the resumption of his classes after the school holidays.
It was a forlorn hope, unfulfilled.
But she said: “I am keeping his bed ready, waiting for him. His clothes, his schoolbooks and a few toys are just as he left them.
“This trip to the temple is a journey I feel I must make. I must pray to our gods, in our temple, for Vishal’s safe return.
“It should be done on our son’s birthday—and it is on that day I will visit the temple.”
The boy’s father, 36-year-old solicitor Mr Vishambar Mehrotra, said: “I am quite certain that Vishal did not run away.
“There was no reason for him to do that. He was happy at home.
“And he is very clever. If he did want to run away, he would have planned it carefully. He would have taken extra clothes and his important possessions.
“But there was nothing missing, not even his folder of letters and birthday cards which he treasured so much. He would not have left those behind.
“Sometimes we take out the folder and we look at the birthday cards he received last year. We feel so sad and we pray for one thing—that Vishal will be back with us soon.”
A huge police team is still operating full-time on the search and at the special investigation headquarters, Detective Chief Superintendent Donald Bremner said: “We are faced with these main possibilities:
“That Vishal has had a serious accident, that he has been murdered, that he has run away, that he has been abducted or that he has been kidnapped.”
It has also been learned that police are looking into three other, more bizarre possibilities.
It is emphasised that NO evidence has been found to support any of these possibilities—but it is known that all are being examined by senior detectives. The three questions on their mind are:
* Could Vishal be back in India? The police have caused inquiries to be made in India.
* Could Vishal have been abducted by an individual or a gang with racial prejudices? There have been isolated attacks in the area on Asians.
* Could there be a link between Vishal’s disappearance and that of Martin Allen, who was 15 when he vanished on Guy Fawkes day, 1979, probably near Gloucester Road Tube station, London?
Det Chief Inspector James Begg, engaged on the Mehrotra case, has closely studied the files on Martin Allen. He and fellow officers have had a series of meetings with Det Chief Inspector David Venness, in charge of the Allen case and his senior officers.
Police have received and believe reports that Martin was seen with a man, at Gloucester Road. And, true or not, six of the 50 “sightings” of Vishal Mehrotra say he was with a man.
But Mrs Mehrotra said: “We just do not know the truth. The worrying thing is that there has been no note, no message, no telephone call.
“If only somebody would tell us what has happened….”