Kidnapped girl’s death causes uproar in Romania after police’s slow response

Authorities took 19 hours to find Alexandra Macesanu (15) after she called three times

 A young man kneels to light a candle at the end of a protest in front of the interior ministry headquarters, in Bucharest, against the way Romanian authorities handled the kidnapping of a 15-year-old girl. Photograph: Robert Ghement/EPA

A young man kneels to light a candle at the end of a protest in front of the interior ministry headquarters, in Bucharest, against the way Romanian authorities handled the kidnapping of a 15-year-old girl. Photograph: Robert Ghement/EPA

 

A murder suspect in the southern Romanian town of Caracal has admitted to killing two teenage girls, his lawyer said on Sunday, in a case that sparked nationwide outrage over the way authorities handled it.

Gheorghe Dinca (65) a mechanic, has been detained pending an investigation into the deaths of Alexandra Macesanu (15) who was last seen earlier this week, and Luiza Melencu (18) who was reported missing in April.

“He confessed the facts,” Mr Dinca’s lawyer Bogdan Alexandru told reporters at the suspect’s residence in Caracal. He said he could not yet elaborate.

People light candles prior to a protest in front of the interior ministry headquarters in Bucharest against the way Romanian authorities handled the kidnapping. Photograph: Robert Ghement/EPA
People light candles prior to a protest in front of the interior ministry headquarters in Bucharest against the way Romanian authorities handled the kidnapping. Photograph: Robert Ghement/EPA

Ms Macesanu called the European emergency number 112 three times, saying she had been kidnapped by a man while hitchhiking to her home village from nearby Caracal.

Official statements show it took authorities 19 hours to locate and enter Mr Dinca’s residence, as they struggled to locate her calls with improper technology, tried to secure unnecessary search warrants and dealt with insufficient police staff.

Thousands of Romanians protested against the government on Saturday, outraged by authorities’ slow response, as well as changes the ruling Social Democrats made to legislation which not only weakened the fight against graft but also the legal means and instruments to combat wider crimes.

Romania’s police chief and two county officials were fired late on Friday.

“Why [authorities] waited . . . must be clarified,” interim general prosecutor Bogdan Licu told private television station Antena3. “A girl who by all indications could have been saved has died.”

Prosecutors have established both girls were hitching rides to their villages from Caracal when kidnapped. Insufficient public transport is a widespread problem in Romania.

Forensics analysts have yet to confirm the identity of the human remains they found at Mr Dinca’s residence. – Reuters