July 30, 2019 / 2:59 PM / a month ago

Romanian minister quits in furor over teens' murder

BUCHAREST (Reuters) - Romania’s interior minister resigned on Tuesday after the murders of two teenage girls in a southern town triggered protests over authorities’ inadequate handling of the case.

Flowers and candles are left by people during an anti-government demonstration in Bucharest, Romania, July 27, 2019. Picture taken July 27, 2019. Inquam Photos/George Calin via REUTERS

A 65-year old mechanic from Caracal has confessed to killing Alexandra Macesanu, 15, who was reported missing on July 24, and Luiza Melencu, 18, who was last seen in April.

Inquiries have shown politicized public safety bodies to be under-funded, short-staffed and insufficiently trained.

After Macesanu phoned the European emergency number 112 saying she had been kidnapped, it took authorities 19 hours to locate and enter the mechanic’s residence as they struggled to trace her three calls and secure unnecessary search warrants.

Prior to that, police also delayed registering a missing report filed by her parents.

“I have made the decision to resign to save part of the ministry’s prestige which has been strongly impacted by the deficient activity of some if its employees, who were either fired or are about to be sanctioned,” said Interior Minister Nicolae Moga, who was only appointed last week.

“In the six days that I have run the Interior Ministry I have ordered all possible inquiries to identify those responsible in the case of the Caracal tragedy. All these inquiries will continue,” added Moga.

Public anger has been mounting, with protests around several Romanian cities at the weekend.

On Monday, dozens of teenagers marched in Caracal carrying banners which read: “Hello, 112, I’m Alexandra and I want to live,” “Romania has failed in Caracal,” “She put all her trust in you when she called.”

Romania’s chief of police and several county officials have already been fired over the case.

President Klaus Iohannis said an inquiry presented at a Supreme Defence Council meeting on Tuesday identified a series of “grave deficiencies.”

As well as the delays, child search-and-rescue protocols were not followed.

“It has been found that institutions in charge of public order and safety ... failed, after a series of unacceptable errors to ensure the fundamental right of life,” he said.

Iohannis added he asked the Social Democrat government to create measures by the end of August to improve cooperation and rapid response systems for public safety institutions, including location-finding technology for 112 calls.

Reporting by Luiza Ilie; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne

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