Missing "13-year-old" apparently diminutive 34-year-old woman

Klara Mauerova and ?, photo: MFDnes

It is almost two weeks since a disturbing story broke about a little boy named Ondrej who had been severely abused by his mother. From that point on, the whole thing became more and more curious, as somebody said to be his 13-year-old sister disappeared from a children's home. First it emerged that the authorities had no record of "Anna", who Ondrej's mother had been attempting to adopt. Hundreds of police officers searched the country for "Anna", in vain. Now it seems that the alleged 13-year-old is in fact a diminutive 34-year-old woman. The girl has never existed, apparently.

Many Czechs found the story of how seven-year-old Ondrej had been kept naked, bound and in the dark by his mother deeply disturbing. But that was just the beginning of a bizarre case that has gripped the country and rarely been off the front pages.

Somebody said to be the boy's 13-year-old sister "Anna" disappeared from a children's home after the family were taken into care. As the search for "Anna" began, it soon emerged that the authorities had no record of her existence, apart from court records from Klara Mauerova's attempts to adopt her.

Ms Mauerova and her sister claimed the "girl" had been abandoned by her drug addict parents. Police searched the whole country for the missing "girl", while a photo of "Anna" being hugged by the much larger Ms Mauerova and alongside the woman's two boys was all over the media.

Barbora Skrlova,  photo: CTK
This week the extremely abstruse case took its most bizarre turn yet. On Tuesday a friend of Klara Mauerova's sister Katerina issued a statement saying that during police questioning Katerina had made a stranger-than-fiction revelation: the "13-year-old girl" was in fact a diminutive woman of 34 called Barbora Skrlova. Police are now looking for her, and say DNA tests could end the mystery.

Of course if this is true it raises many questions, the biggest of which being why would Klara Mauerova try to adopt a 34-year-old woman under a false name and pretend to the court that she was 13? Barbora Skrlova - who formerly worked with Katerina Mauerova - also seems to have played her part: the judge in the adoption procedure said she always had toys in her hands. Others said she hid behind a teddy bear.

Questions will also be asked of others who came into contact with "Anna" - how could they take a 34-year-old for a 13-year-old? The director of the Brno children's home from which she disappeared said she gave staff a strange feeling, and they thought she had a strange face.

As if all this was not enough, copies of a letter purporting to be from 13-year-old Anna were received on Tuesday by the president, the ombudsman and a national newspaper. The author, who writes mostly in the male gender, appeals for clemency for Klara Mauerova. The letter may well turn out to be a small footnote to probably the most bizarre news story seen in this country for many years.