Is this for real?


"If it were a soap opera we would have switched it off long ago" - that is how one Czech journalist characterized the most stupefying story in Czech criminal history. When the story broke a fortnight ago it seemed to be a horrifying case of child abuse.

A single mother looking after three children - moreover a student of child psychology -locked her 8-year old son Ondra in a broom cupboard, naked, bound and force-fed him his own vomit. The fact that this was uncovered by pure accident - and that other members of the family apparently knew about the abuse made one wonder how many other unfortunate children are in a similar situation today. But, there was worse to come. It emerged that one of the other children -13-year old Anna - was a child with no identity. She had no parents, no birth certificate, had never been to a doctor or to school. How could a 13 year old have led an invisible life?

Before people had time to get over the shock of these revelations, Anna mysteriously disappeared from the children's home where she had been placed. The police suspect that she may have been kidnapped by a member of her strange family.

Then came the real bombshell. It turned out that the alleged 13-year-old had not been a girl at all, but a missing woman of 34. How could the doctors and psychologists who attended to her not have known the difference? Did Anna ever exist and if so who are her parents and where is she now? Why are none of the family members willing to speak out? Do they really belong to the Holy Grail religious sect and why would they want to pass off a 34 year old woman for a 13 year old girl?

"Anna may never have existed - the police are chasing a phantom" read the headlines. The next day a letter from the mysterious Anna arrived at the headquarters of the most popular Czech daily. It was addressed to the president and in 9 long pages Anna begged for clemency for her mother, saying she was a good woman who only locked up Ondra because he had been bad to Anna.

"I have the feeling that someone is playing a very strange game with us" Mr. Klaus told the media. Who is this strange family and how many victims are actually in the picture? The story gets crazier by the day but one thing is certain no matter how it unfolds, it has shaken many peoples faith that such a thing could not happen in this country, in this day and age. And unlike a soap opera this horror story cannot be switched off or forgotten.