Police say seven boys robbed, murdered 81-year-old woman

Police investigators say that seven boys arrested this week in connection with the murder of an 81-year-old woman in August have confessed to planning in advance to rob her at her home in East Bohemia. Six of the boys were under the age of 15 when the robbery and murder took place -- the youngest was only 11 -- and cannot be held criminally responsible. The case has shocked the public and rekindled debate among politicians about lowering the age of legal responsibility.

Anna Otcenaskova lived alone in a modest house in Olesnice, a village about 75 kilometres east of Prague. Neighbours described her as a lively and open woman. Long since divorced, she never had children. By chance her closest relative, a nephew, had come to check on her the very day of the attack, and found her lying helpless in a pool of blood.

Detectives working on the case now say at least seven boys took part in the robbery. Most of them were living at a children's home, in nearby Kostelec nad Orlici. Police are also investigating the role played by the 34-year-old father of two of the boys, Vladimir Gina, who allegedly drove the group by car to the 81-year-old pensioner's home.

When Anna Otcenaskova put up resistance, the boys attacked her, at least one of them with a pair of scissors. She suffered serious chest, neck and head injuries and died in hospital five days after the August 12 attack. The perpetrators fled with about two thousand crowns, the equivalent of 60 euros.

The Minister of Education, Petra Buzkova, said the tragedy pointed to the need in the Czech Republic for "something between a prison and a children's home." For his part, Minister of Justice Pavel Nemec said it might be necessary to revise the Criminal Code to lower the age of legal responsibility.

In the first six months of this year, children under the age of 15 were involved in over 550 reported cases of theft, 91 assaults, and seven cases of rape.