NEWS

Schoolboys ‘confess’ to murdering classmate

Police in Veria, northern Greece, yesterday searched for the body of missing Alex Meshivili, 11, on a construction site where five schoolboys allegedly claimed to have buried him after beating him to death. But officers said the investigation into the fate of the 11-year-old – who was last seen on February 3 – was now focusing on the possible involvement of the five boys’ relatives after the youngsters later retracted their confessions, claiming to have been coerced into making them. Still, police continued their search of the rubble at the site of an abandoned house, which was demolished about a month ago and where fresh construction has begun. According to the original testimony of the five boys – two Greeks, two Albanians and one Romanian – they had buried Alex’s body under the house that originally stood on that site after beating him to death following an argument. The boys, all aged between 11 and 13, were arrested on Friday after police received an anonymous tip-off and were released on Saturday. The Georgian-born Alex, who had been living in Veria with his Russian mother and Greek stepfather for several years, was last seen on February 3 after a basketball match with schoolmates. According to Alex’s parents and to Chryssoula Mavraki, head of the child protection agency The Child’s Smile, Alex had been bullied by schoolmates. «They felt competitive toward him and they wanted to teach him a lesson,» Mavraki said. According to Mavraki, many Veria residents had suspected that the youngsters had been involved in Alex’s disappearance but had refrained from contacting police.