Sun, May 16, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Son of Russian fantasy writer kidnapped, killed

CHILD MURDER After being lured to a warehouse by a schoolmate, the teenage son of a bestselling author was murdered, even as the kidnappers demanded ransom

THE GUARDIAN , LONDON

The 13-year-old son of Russia's best-selling fantasy writer has been murdered in a bungled kidnapping allegedly involving some of his school friends.

Ivan Belyanin was abducted on his way home from school in the southern town of Astrakhan on Wednesday.

His body was found the next day after his father, Andrei, had received a ransom demand for US$100,000.

Prosecutors said Friday that an unnamed 13-year-old boy and his 21-year-old brother, identified by the media as Ivan Kostalyev, had been arrested along with another boy.

The killing has shocked Russia and, in a sign of how anxious Moscow is to demonstrate its grip on law and order, the prosecutor-general has taken charge of the case.

Andrei Belyanin has written 15 books that have sold more than 2 million copies all told.

The books include the popular fantasy trilogy Jack the Mad King, Jack and the Wooden Castle and Jack in the East.

Police believe that his wealth may have attracted unwanted attention at his son's school.

A statement from the Astrakhan prosecutor said that on the evening after the kidnap, Belyanin received the ransom demand and contacted the police.

"As the result of a well-planned operation by the FSB [security service] and regional department of organized crime at the moment of receiving the ransom, one of the suspects was arrested," the statement said.

Police at first thought they had achieved a breakthrough in their investigation of the case.

But the suspect they had identified was too slow in revealing where the captive was being held for the police to save the child's life.

The next day, officers made a shocking discovery.

Ivan's body was found in a dusty warehouse on the outskirts of Astrakhan.

The boy had been stripped of his school rucksack and his clothes.

He had been strangled only hours after his abduction, but his killers appear to have gone ahead with the ransom demand, pretending that he was still being held hostage.

Nurislan Uzbekov, a spokesman for the police, said: "We have preliminary confessions from the two who are detained.

Another schoolboy invited the victim [to the warehouse], saying people were looking for him," Uzbekov said.

Uzbekov said that authorities had not yet established the extent of the third suspect's guilt.

It is not the first time the quiet southern town has been subjected to a child murder.

On Feb. 17, a 10-year-old girl was abducted and killed.

Her body was found in the basement of a house.

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