Shocking child abuse case takes mysterious turn

Photo: Otto Ballon Mierny, MFDnes

In the Czech Republic, two weeks after an eight-year-old boy was found bound and naked in a broom cupboard, the case has taken a mysterious turn. The abused boy was originally believed to have a 13-year-old adopted sister. But now a Czech daily claims that DNA tests have shown she is in fact a 34-year-old woman. Dita Asiedu reports on the case, which has highlighted a number of shortcomings in Czech legislation...

The case of little Ondrej, discovered by chance in a broom cupboard in early May, shocked many people in this country as the raw facts are disturbing. An eight-year-old boy with a hearing disability is systematically abused by his mother - herself a student of child psychology who was planning to work with disabled children. The case is discovered by chance when footage from a neighbour's digital babyminder shows Ondrej tied up naked in a cupboard under the stairs, being force fed his own vomit by his mother.

Ondrej's mother, Klara Mauerova, admits the abuse to police but says it had only taken place for the previous fortnight when she was suffering severe emotional strain. The boy, however, tells detectives he had been locked up "a hundred" times. He says he was also locked up by his mother's sister at the children's home where she worked. Both women are now in police custody.

Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, photo: CTK
Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek says he wants new legislation to improve the protection of children. Social workers are no longer under central control, so the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, for example, cannot order them to investigate suspected abuse cases. Mr Topolanek has proposed the creation of a new National Office for Employment and Social Care to co-ordinate the system of child protection.

But the case has highlighted other problem areas. Ondrej never went to school - his mother chose to teach him at home because of his hearing disability. Education Minister Dana Kuchtova has expressed concern at the lack of monitoring of children who are schooled by their parents and is calling for tighter controls over home schooling in the Czech Republic.

"I think we should consider making more regular check-ups of such children. At the moment the consultation is every six months - I think it should be more often," she says.

But this week, all the attention around little Ondrej has been turned to a case involving a girl thought to have been Ondrej's 13 year-old adopted sister Anna. Anna, or Anicka as she's called here, went missing shortly after she, Ondrej, and their brother Jakub were taken into care at a children's home. But Anna has literally disappeared without trace - there is no birth certificate, no medical record; her history is unknown.

 Barbora Skrlova, photo: CTK
On Friday, a Czech daily reported that DNA test results have shown that Anicka is in fact a 34-year-old woman named Barbora Skrlova who worked for Ondrej's aunt at the children's home. She resigned in early May, and has also disappeared.

Why would Klara Mauerova adopt a 34-year-old woman under a false name and pretend to the court that she was 13? Barbora Skrlova 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.

According to a number of press reports, little Ondrej's whole family was involved in something called the Grail Movement, variously described as a new religious movement or a cult. Police have even indicated that the Czech chapter of this international group was involved in both Anicka's disappearance and Ondrej's abuse. A member of the Grail Movement has confirmed there was contact with the family, but denies involvement in any wrongdoing.