Romania suspect admits killing two teenage girls, charged with murder

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People light candles at a makeshift memorial in front of the Romanian Interior Ministry in Bucharest on July 27 to commemorate Alexandra, the 15-year-old girl who was murdered after she telephoned police three times to report her own kidnapping

People light candles at a makeshift memorial in front of the Romanian Interior Ministry in Bucharest on July 27 to commemorate Alexandra, the 15-year-old girl who was murdered after she telephoned police three times to report her own kidnapping. (AFP Photo/Daniel MIHAILESCU)

Bucharest (AFP) - A man in Romania has admitted to killing two teenage girls including a 15-year-old whose disappearance this week shook the country and claimed the scalp of the police chief, the suspect's lawyer said Sunday.

The suspect, named as 65-year-old Gheorghe Dinca, "has confessed his crimes", lawyer Alexandru Bogdan was quoted as saying by Agerpres news agency.

After initially refusing to answer any questions, Dinca eventually caved and admitted to the murders of Alexandra who vanished on Wednesday and 19-year-old Luiza, missing since April.

Dinca was taken into custody Saturday after investigators searching his home and garden found human remains and jewellery belonging to Alexandra.

She was snatched Wednesday as she tried to hitch-hike home to Dobrosloveni in southern Romania.

On Thursday morning, he girl managed to ring the emergency number 112 three times and give clues to police about the place she was being held by a car driver who had picked her up.

She yelled "he's coming, he's coming" before the line was cut, police said.

"Gheorghe Dinca has been charged with murder. He is suspected of having killed Alexandra after having kidnapped and raped her," prosecutor Georgiana Hosu said, adding that authorities believed that the killing was similar to that of Luiza.

Hosu also said that it was believed that Alexandra was killed on Thursday shortly after trying to call for help.

The case has sparked an outcry in Romania, with thousands of demonstrators taking to the streets of Bucharest on Saturday evening.

Critics allege that officials failed to take the alert seriously and finally reacted too late to locate and help save the teen.

- 'Assassins' -

Interior Minister Nicolae Moga announced late Friday that he had sacked police chief Ioan Buda. Four other officials were also forced to resign.

Centre-right President Klaus Iohannis -- who is frequently at loggerheads with the ruling Social Democrats -- said the "resignations of all those who mishandled this case which had such dramatic consequences are obligatory".

Speaking later on Sunday, he added: "The government should ask if it was not the moral author of this tragedy."

Luiza disappeared three months ago in the same area under similar circumstances.

Her parents this week accused police of also botching the case.

They said one official allegedly implied their daughter may have run off "with her Prince Charming" when they filed their report in April.

In Alexandra's case, officers had searched three buildings before they finally found the house where she had been held, more than 12 hours after her phone calls.

Police then sought a search warrant, which is not required in emergencies, and waited till dawn to enter the house -- 19 hours after Alexandra's last call.

Thousands of protesters rallied outside the interior ministry in Bucharest on Saturday evening, placing flowers and candles at a makeshift memorial.

Chanting "assassins" and "incompetence", the demonstrators demanded that Prime Minister Viorica Dancila and her cabinet step down.

Critics have accused her government of weakening the criminal justice system with controversial reforms also heavily denounced by Brussels.

"Why did the police not intervene earlier? Everyone needs to answer for this, from police officers and prosecutors to Dancila," protester Cristian Nan, 55, told AFP on Saturday evening.