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23 Jan, 2009 07:22

Runaway orphans freeze to death

The deaths of two runaway boys have brought accusations of negligence against the staff of a Moscow region children's home. One of the youngsters had frozen to death – the other died of hypothermia in hospital.

Nine-year-old Serezha Tararashkin and 12-year-old Volodya Serebryakov absconded from the children’s home on Monday, bound for Moscow.

The boys spent more than 24 hours in the woods and were found in the morning near railway tracks, after a train driver spotted the bodies and alerted police. The boys were found without their clothes.

The temperature that night fell to -10C.

The younger boy, Serezha, was still alive when the authorities found him but he died an hour later. His older colleague, Volodya, who had apparently masterminded the ‘escape’, had apparently died during the night.

Volodya had a history of escaping from correctional schools and was even on a federal wanted list.

It’s reported that Serezha Tararashkin had been a quiet boy who participated in school activities.

Serezha’s father was deprived of parental rights shortly after his wife died two years ago. Social workers ruled that a nine-year-old boy would be safer in a children’s home than with his elder sister.

They proved wrong.

“Shortly before that day we brought him presents and a mobile phone to stay in touch. The same evening my brother called me and said he was being humiliated by a boy – I think it was the one he ran away with. The presents we gave him were broken and children took away his teddy bear,” Serezha’s elder sister Olga Tararashkina said.

Friends say social workers are to blame.

“Once we came to the children’s home and were waiting for Serezha. An old woman was guarding the door. A boy aged 10 or 11 years then came out with a pack of cigarettes and she let him out to smoke. Other teenagers could also go outside without any problems either,” Sergey Glebov said, a Serezha’s friend.

The prosecutor dealing with the case says the home had passed the necessary safety requirements.

“We inquired and have already received the so-called anti-terror passports of the school – the ones every educational institution in Russia should have. If there are violations, our office will take action,” acting prosecutor Aleksandr Pokotilo said.

But local police have had problems gaining access to the building. And the media is not welcome either.

Although the boys died several days ago, the children’s home is still refusing to let anybody in or out.

If the court rules that the staff are to blame for the deaths, they could face up to seven years in prison. The minimum punishment is a fine of $4,000.