11-year-old held captive and starved for two years

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11-year-old held captive and starved for two years

An 11-year-old girl was caught stealing bread in a supermarket. The store’s owner had a hunch she had good reason to take it.

Days later, the girl’s 32-year-old father and two of his lady friends were arrested for starving the girl for two years.

The father and his live-in girlfriend admitted abusing the girl, Incheon Yeonsu Police Precinct said Monday. A second woman living in the house denied it.

The girl escaped from the second floor of her house on Dec. 12 by climbing down a gas pipe. It was her first time out of the house in two years. She was expressly forbidden to leave the house by her father - and beaten if she disobeyed.

“My father didn’t lock the door, but I felt I would be punished if I went out,” she told police.

“I was starving to death as I could only drink water every day. That’s why I sneaked out of the home.” The girl told police her father beat her with his fists, a cane and even with a steel pipe.

When the owner of the supermarket caught her stealing bread, he noticed she was barefoot and wearing a summer shirt and pants.

He took her to the police rather than returning her home, suspecting child abuse.

She was 120 centimeters (3.9 feet) tall, the standard height of a 7-year-old, and weighed 16 kilograms (35.3 pounds), average for a 4-year-old.

She had bruises and scars on her body and was diagnosed with fractured ribs.

Police said her father divorced the biological mother of the girl when she was an infant. He is allegedly an Internet game addict and lives off his girlfriend’s earnings.

The couple has lived together for six years and when they moved to Incheon two years ago, a friend of the girlfriend joined them along with a dog.

Since then, the father didn’t allow his daughter to go to school, and claimed to be homeschooling her.

While the girl was totally neglected, a cherished Maltese dog was over-fed and well maintained.

“How is my dog?” the father asked police when he was held after being arrested.

A police officer said the girl was doing well in police custody. When the police explained they were removing her from her father’s care, she said, “Thank you.”

BY KIM SO-HEE, CHOI MO-RAN [kim.sohee0905@joongang.co.kr]

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