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30 May, 2009 05:14

Neglected toddler barked like a dog

A girl-Mowgli has been discovered by police at a property in the eastern Russian city of Chita. The five-year-old could barely speak and attacked her rescuers like a wild animal.

Chita social services revealed that the child was being brought up by cats and dogs instead of her parents.

Although she lived with her father, grandfather, grandmother and other relatives, Interfax reports that the toddler was essentially “alone in the wilderness”.

“Five-year-old Natasha was dirty, wearing dirty clothes and displayed the habits of a domesticated animal. After all these years the only language the little girl learned was the language of animals,” a police officer said.

He added that the little girl had never been outside the apartment. According to him, her parents took their pets out for walks, trying to stay out of sight of the neighbors, but never took their little daughter.

The police press service, quoting the social service department, said that when officers finally entered the apartment they were amazed at the number of huge cats and dogs in the rooms and the stench that hung in the air.

“I hope the girl will return to a normal life soon, but in fact all speech, motion and mentality centers develop by five years. A major development program is needed to get things moving.”

Evgeny Makushkin, deputy director of Moscow’s Serbsky National Research Centre for Social and Forensic Psychiatry.

Natasha’s relatives initially refused to let police into the apartment and afterwards would not give up the child.

“The girl’s father was not at home at the time,” one of the officers told Interfax. “Where the mother is – nobody knows. But they say that she is alive, well and bringing up three more children.”

Natasha’s fate

The little girl has been taken into care at the “Nadezhda” rehabilitation centre in the Chita region.

Medical workers say early tests show the child’s mental development is nearly normal despite her ordeal. Nevertheless, when healthcare workers leave her room she jumps to the door and starts barking.

“Moreover, the physical deviations are obvious. Although the girl is five years old, she looks as though she is two or three,” a media spokesman told Interfax.

He also pointed out that the girl has a healthy appetite, but she cannot use cutlery and prefers to eat straight out of the bowl with her mouth.

"There have been six similar cases in Russia in the last few years, so the successful rehabilitation of children with Mowgli syndrome has occurred in Russia. … But these children shouldn’t be put in “complete medium” – they should undergo adaptation surrounded by children with similar problems, like deaf-mutes or the mentally impaired."

Mikhail Vinogradov, criminal psychologist

The good news is that the girl is now trying to communicate with other children, the center’s director Tatiana Misnik told RIA.

“There’s no talk about isolation – she lives in a reception ward with other children. Of course, she’ll undergo more medical tests, but she looks healthy now. The only problem is that she is five years old and she cannot speak at all,” Misnik said, before adding: “As for her muteness, we don’t know the reasons behind it yet.”

The parents

Natasha’s mother presented herself to the police voluntarily on Wednesday, giving her version of why the girl was brought up so carelessly.

According to the 25-year-old woman, the child was kidnapped by the father when Natasha was just two and a half years old. The father Viktor Mikhailov, however, tells a different story.

“He says that he took the little girl in following a request by his mother-in-law, who insisted that the mother was not taking proper care of the girl,” Egor Markov from the police press service told Itar-Tass.

“The man insists that his apartment has all the appropriate conditions for bringing up a child,” he added. “However, I can confirm that this is not the case. There is a small pack of cats and dogs on the premises and a demonstrative fact of the awful conditions is that hungry cats there chew on raw potatoes.”

As Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper reports, Viktor Mikhailov has a criminal background. He even spent several years behind bars for murder. Upon learning this, the police brought Mikhailov to a police station for questioning, though he showed strong resistance.

“Natasha’s great-grandmother called me and asked to take the girl back, as she felt absolutely done in and had little money to bring up the girl – she rears Natasha’s older sister at her expense. So I came and took my child back,” explained Mikhailov.

“The girl lived in normal conditions. She doesn’t speak – what then? At the same time she understands animals,” he added.

The local juvenile commission has fined the girl’s father, and issued a warning to her mother.