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Romanians angry after police fail to save girl

July 28, 2019

A 15-year-old girl called the police three times to report she was being held against her will by a man who had raped her in Romania. Police took 19 hours to reach the scene, by which time she was already dead.

Protesters hold up banner reading 'Romania is killed' during Friday rally
'Romania is killed' the banner readsImage: Getty Images/D. Mihailescu

The man suspected of killing a 15-year-old schoolgirl confessed to the crime and to murdering another girl in the same area of southern Romania, his lawyer said on Sunday. The other victim, who was 18 years old, went missing some three months ago.

The confession came a day after thousands of Romanians marched through Bucharest, accusing the police of gross incompetence and demanding resignations over the case.

Both girls apparently met the 65-year-old mechanic Gheorghe D. while trying to hitch a ride to their home villages from the town of Caracal.

"My client has said that the two teenagers went with him voluntarily but that in both cases a conflict erupted shortly afterwards and he hit them, the blows causing their death," the lawyer added.

Rescue came too late

The 15-year-old Alexandra Macesanu was last seen on Wednesday. On Thursday morning, she managed to call the police three times, telling them that she had been kidnapped, raped, and was still being held against her will in the man's house. However, she was not able to give the police the exact address.

The girl yelled "he's coming, he's coming" before her last phone call ended, the police said. Separately, a neighbor of the suspect, in Caracal, contacted the police to report hearing screams from his house.

However, the authorities were not able to locate the suspect's house for 12 hours, with officers searching three other buildings instead.

After finding the site, police waited until they secured a search warrant, despite it not being required in emergencies.

Then they reportedly continued waiting until dawn on Friday to search the premises, entering the building around 19 hours after Alexandra's last call.

Police eventually discovered some human remains and an earring belonging to the girl.

The 65-year-old mechanic was taken to custody.

Romanians light candles in front of the Romanian Ministry of Interior
Romanians light candles in front of the Romanian Ministry of InteriorImage: Getty Images/D. Mihailescu

Police chief fired

The case sparked outcry against the police and the Romanian government. On Friday, Interior Minister Nicolae Moga said that national police chief Ioan Buda had been sacked over the scandal. Four other officials have also been forced to resign.

The sackings did little to reduce the tensions, with participants of the Saturday protest asking for the government, led by Prime Minister Viorica Dancilla, to step down, and accusing them of weakening the criminal justice system.

The parents of the other victim, Luiza Melencu, also blamed the police of botching the case, saying that one officer had implied the 18-year-old may have run off "with her Prince Charming" when they filed their report.

President Klaus Iohannis also urged "resignations of all those who mishandled this case which had such dramatic consequences."

The center-right Iohannis, who often criticizes the Social Democratic government, also slammed "political decision-makers" who promote corruption and incompetence.

A parliamentary committee is set to quiz Sorinel Vasilca, the head of the Romania's STS telecommunications agency, over the failure to track the girl's call on Monday.

dj/jm (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)Every evening, DW sends out a selection of the day's news and features. Sign up here.