Authorities and news media were on the receiving end of public outrage on Thursday, following reports of unsubstantiated rape allegations of a baby girl that led to the arrest of her father.
The case first made headlines on Wednesday late morning, at least one day after a team of doctors at Makarios Children’s Hospital in Nicosia examined a 5-month-old baby and determined she was the victim of rape.
Sources told Knews that both the hospital and the mother filed seperate complaints. But police told Knews they were handling only one case whle they have taken statements from both the doctors and the parents.
Police sources said hospital doctors notified police after suspecting abuse, while previous reporting from Knews said the mother was reluctant to agree to the allegations made by hospital officials, telling cops that only the Somali couple, herself and her husband, had access to the baby.
Couple’s story deemed not credible
But the father of the baby was arrested on Tuesday following the complaint and then remanded for five days the following day. He had reportedly told investigators he was trying to change the diaper and might have inadvertently caused injury to his baby girl.
Knews sought to confirm the specific charges against the father but police said they did not wish to elaborate on the case
The mother corroborated his story, telling cops that she had instructed her husband earlier on how to change the baby’s diaper before she left for work. When she came back from cleaning houses, she saw something wrong around the baby’s genital area and asked her husband about it. He said he did not know anythying and the two parents decided to take the infant to Makarios hospital.
But police did not find the couple’s version of events to be credible, according to reports, with officers pressing charges against the dad based on the hospital complaint.
The initial physical exam at the hospital earlier this week showed visible abrasions on the infant’s body around the genital area. The exam was conducted by a pediatric surgeon, followed by the resident gynecologist, and then a state pathologist, all of whom concurred with the finding that the baby’s hymen had been ruptured.
The assistant director of pediatric surgery, Efthymios Tsivitanides, said he was completely certain that the baby had been raped, adding that never in his 32 years in the profession had he come across such a “shocking and abhorrent incident.” According to Kathimerini Cyprus, Tsivitanides was not one of the doctors who examined the baby, causing a rift among his colleagues who were puzzled over his statements.
Hospital retracts rape claim
But the medical finding was later retracted by hospital administration. Local reports on Thursday pointed to statements by Makarios officials, suggesting that the rupture of the hymen was a confirmed fact but rape could not substantiated.
Hospital director Andreas Neophytou went on live TV on Thursday evening to clarify that the 5-month-old baby was not raped, essentially retracting the earlier finding by the team of doctors.
“She was not raped, but something else did happen,” Neophytou said.
Doctor suspected abuse during flu shot visit
Neophytou had previously administered a flu shot on the infant, when the mother took her daughter to the hospital for her seasonal check up.
According to the doctor, another pediatrician at the hospital also examined the baby during that visit and became suspicious of child abuse, prompting hospital authorities to contact police.
Police say they have reasonable suspicion
Knews sought to confirm the specific charges against the father but police said they did not wish to elaborate on the case or provide any new information. Asked about the nature of the offences more broadly, a police press officer said they did not wish to elaborate.
“We are carrying on an investigation based on reasonable suspicion following a specific complaint,” the officer told Knews, citing also a post on social media by Cyprus Police.
“Police continue to investigate the case in connection with the 5-month-old baby with the utmost care. Due to the delicate nature of the matter, discretion is necessary in how comments are made and how the case is presented,” police spokesperson Andreas Angelides wrote on Twitter.
Minister orders internal investigation
Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou has ordered a probe into the matter, essentially seeking to find whether all protocols had been followed as well as whether public statements by doctors were substantiated.
Ioannou said he would make no comments on the issue until the internal investigation is complete and he has a full picture of what took place.