Children's shelter escapees lied about torture: police

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The four children who sparked public outrage with their story of abuse after escaping from a shelter in Dong Nai last month were telling a tall tale, investigators said Wednesday.

Police in the province's Bien Hoa Town said they would not open an investigation to find evidence for criminal charges against the shelter's employees.

A 12-year-old child from the shelter, Nguyen Van Be Hai, known to be particularly naughty and the recipient of frequent censure, had encouraged four others Nguyen Van Quyet, 13, Le Gia Huy, 5, Diep Hieu Trung, 4, and his brother Diep Tuan Khoa, 6 to flee the shelter at around 1 a.m. on November 8.

Quyet, who woke up later and attempted to follow the other four, was later found wandering in the area, lost, and local residents returned him to the shelter, which takes care of orphaned and abandoned children.

The other four, led by Hai, took a bus to Ho Chi Minh City where they were found by a passerby and taken to the local police. They told the police they fled after being abused at the shelter.

Khoa said he was tied to a toilet and dunked in a water tank after soiling his pants.

However, investigators say the children had made up the stories.

Before fleeing the facility, Khoa had a swollen forehead and swelling around his eyes after he fell down when playing with Hai. All the other children were healthy, police said.

When climbing the shelter's fence, Huy suffered an injury in his left thumb from a sharp iron spike.

They walked toward HCMC and stopped on a railway bridge in Bien Hoa Town's Hoa An Commune.

When a train approached, the frightened children jumped off the six-meter-high bridge and suffered injuries.

Huy had a bleeding injury in his left hand while Khoa had a broken right arm and multiple injuries in his belly, back, waist and leg.

Investigators separated the children when taking them to the bridge and all of them identified the same place they'd jumped off from, police said.

The children then took a bus to Le Hong Phong Street in HCMC, where they were found by local resident On Diep Thanh who took them to the Ward 4 police station in District 5. Khoa and Huy were admitted to the Children's Hospital for treatment while Hai and Trung were taken to the HCMC Social Sponsors Center.

Khoa admitted upon questioning that he had not been tortured by the shelter's staff as he had claimed earlier.

Huy had said that his belly had been bruised by the edge of a water tank as he was tortured but police found such an injury could not have been caused by the smooth edge of the tank.

Meanwhile, Hai's eye-witness account of Trung being dunked in a water tank early this year was also not true, investigators concluded, because the latter was actually admitted to the shelter only in June.

Earlier, a senior official at the shelter had denied all accusations and asked for a criminal investigation into the case.

"I was really shocked when they said my husband and I had seriously assaulted them," Le Thi Thanh Lan, deputy director of the shelter, told the media.

"We consider them our own children and we were in the process of adopting [one of them]. We always bring them with us on vacations or when we go out to eat," she said. "I have never abused them with clubs and chains as they claim. I want the police to investigate [these accusations]."

On November 10, the Youth Union branch in Dong Nai Province issued a decision to suspend Lan for one month pending an investigation into the children's claims.

Le Thi My Phuong, director of the Dong Nai Department of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs, said the shelter has played an important role in protecting and taking care of the orphans and abandoned children.

The children have since been returned to the shelter they escaped from, and Lan's suspension has been lifted.

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