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13 Nov, 2019 19:04

Child prison & death in a blaze: Mother commits suicide after kids she kept in lockup for 10 years escape

Child prison & death in a blaze: Mother commits suicide after kids she kept in lockup for 10 years escape

No school, no IDs and constant CCTV surveillance. Three kids remained in lockup for a decade, as their mom tried to protect them from the ‘cruel world.’ No one in town knew what was happening behind the fence of a private home.

A week ago, a phone rang at the police station in the town of Ust-Katav in the industrial Chelyabinsk Region of Russia's Urals. A panicked woman was calling, claiming that her three children – two girls aged 20 and 11, and 15-year-old-boy – had been kidnapped.

The police acted fast and found the trio just a few hours later, but they decided against returning them to their home, as the story the kids told stunned even the experienced operatives. The children revealed that there had been no abduction and that they themselves had escaped from their mother, who kept them locked up for a whopping 10 years. They did nothing wrong, but were basically forced to serve a prison term that could be handed down for murder in Russia.

When social workers contacted their mother, Dina Azizova, she reportedly rebuffed them by shouting: "If you want to put me in prison, you're free to do so, but I only wanted the best for my children."

What happened the next morning was another shock for the small town, as the woman set fire to the hut where she had kept her children, and took her own life. Her body was later discovered by firefighters who were called to the scene by neighbors.

The blaze went out by itself, leaving the house mostly intact, allowing for a glimpse into the daily lives of the three inmates. The conditions they had to endure were miserable. Photos revealed that they were held in a small, dark and dirty room with bare wooden walls. The hut was littered and furnished with old, broken sofas and cupboards. An outdated TV set, which was connected to a DVD player, seemed to be the only entertainment available to the children.

A video by a Russian broadcaster showed the exterior of the house and the aftermath of the blaze at the ‘child prison.’

The runaways told a social worker that their mother had strictly forbidden them from leaving their home, which was located in a quiet spot on the outskirts of town, surrounded by a tall fence. The woman put CCTV cameras on the perimeter, as well as inside the house, in order to keep a constant eye on her children. The yard was also guarded by a huge dog.

Internet access and any contact with the outside world was banned. The eldest sister, Darina, owned a smartphone, but it was a little consolation, since she could only use it under her mom's supervision.

While Dina confined her children in these desolate surroundings, she did provide them with food, clothing and other necessities. She was actually well known in town as a skillful tailor and made her living out of it. But the 55-year-old never invited her clients into her home.

One of the items the mother purchased in large quantities was hair dye, which she used to turn her daughters into blondes like herself.

With the children skipping school, Dina also functioned as a teacher. "My youngest sister could count to 100 and knew the alphabet by heart when she was three," Darina said in an interview with the local media. Social workers confirmed that the girls and the boy could read and write, but still lagged behind their peers significantly.

It seems unbelievable that neither the authorities nor the neighbors knew about the cruel treatment of the siblings taking place right under their noses. But Dina was a shrewd conspirator: she didn't hide her kids when family arrived in Ust-Katav in late 2000s, but a few years later she told everybody that they had returned to the neighboring Republic of Bashkortostan to live with their elder sister. That was the moment when the children's imprisonment began.

Even their father, who divorced Dina years ago, was fooled. When he called his children, they always told him about the good marks they got in school and the theater plays they took part in – just like their mother had instructed.

The reasons for the woman's actions may never be known, but some locals speculate that the bizarre behavior could've been provoked by what happened to her first daughter. She had a normal life, but fell in with the wrong crowd during her teenage years, and ended up getting involved in manslaughter. After serving her time, the girl moved to Bashkortostan and settled there.

The mother apparently wanted to protect her other children from a similar fate, but her love brought her to the wrong place. They said she persuaded them that "the outside world is cruel; that it will spoil them" and that she was the one to provide them with everything they needed.


But the siblings were suffocating in confinement and planned an escape, which was eventually realized thanks to Darina's smartphone. The girl was somehow able to use the device without Dina knowing.

The children fled when their mother went to the store and found shelter in the home of a young man, whom Darina had met on social media. They remained there until the police picked them up.

"Morally, we just couldn't withstand staying indoors all the time and fearing that our mom would catch us with the smartphone," Darina explained. The prosecutors said there are traces of physical violence on the kids, which may serve as an explanation as to why they were so afraid of their mother.

The siblings currently remain in hospital, where psychologists are trying to help them overcome the traumatic experience. It's yet to be decided if they will move to live with their father or their elder sister. The children may also stay in Ust-Katav. After all, they are legally entitled to inherit the house, and local authorities have vowed to provide them with money to rebuild their home after the fire.

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