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Mum fears for sons’ safety as burns probe takes time

A mother whose twin sons were burnt with cigarettes more than four months ago is still waiting for police to take action against the man who the boys claim was responsible for hurting them.

This was not just about mistakenly dropping ash. This was a burn, literally, a hole in the body

On August 25, Suzanne Formosa’s six-year-old boys returned home with cigarette burns on their fingers, back, legs and tummy. One of them had five burns and the other had three.

She filed a police report the day after and police took a statement by the boys, who told them what had happened when they were in their father’s custody and identified the man who caused their burns (not the father).

Ms Formosa complains that no action has yet been taken against the alleged perpetrator and she fears her sons are still in danger. As the police gather evidence, the children visit their father four times a week, which means the perpetrator knows where to find them.

“This was not just about mis­takenly dropping ash. This was a burn, literally, a hole in the body… Just having one is one thing but having all these – look how clear they are,” Ms Formosa said as she held up photographs of her sons’ blistered bodies.

She insisted she wanted to speak up because something had to be done about such delays.

“This is something people saw, the children spoke out, the burns were there, the police were informed, Appoġġ was informed, I’ve been all over the place… and nothing, for four whole months,” she said.

The police said they were investigating the case and that the lack of action so far was due to “certain inconsistencies” in the children’s version of events.

When Ms Formosa discovered the burns last August the boys told her they were mosquito bites. A child psychologist later told her it was normal for children to lie to protect people.

The following day she took them to the Gżira health centre. They told the doctor they had been burnt with cigarettes and mentioned the name of the man who did it.

The doctor drew up a report, seen by The Times, and Ms Formosa then went to the Sliema police station. Police there spoke to the boys and what they told them was included in their report, also seen by this paper.

When the police officer asked them where the incident happened they said it was “during the feast of St Julian’s where there were the stairs, the boats and the ducks” – referring to Spinola Bay.

The Sliema police then sent the case to the St Julian’s police station since the incident happened there.

Meanwhile, Ms Formosa filed an application in court to stop the boys from visiting their father, believing they were in danger. This was acceded to for three weeks but it was later overturned since the court had no evidence of where and by whom the boys were injured.

Ms Formosa then went to Appoġġ, the government support agency, and was initially told they had not received her file from the police. Once the file was open, however, the agency spoke to the children and carried out a surprise visit at their school.

The police said: “Appoġġ has been involved in this investigation as a normal practice since children are involved. Suspects are prosecuted only when the police have exhausted all the investigations and that there is prima facie evidence that the accused has a case to answer.”

When contacted, Appoġġ said it could not divulge information on specific cases due to confidentiality; however, all referrals of abuse or child maltreatment “with evident physical symptoms” were dealt with urgently.

“Investigations about child abuse cases are given priority… and the agency ensures the child’s safety is given utmost importance. Duration of investigations by Appoġġ and assessments depend on the case and the severity of abuse. Furthermore in situations where the police and/or courts are involved, the agency works hand in hand with these entities, and the course of action is determined in liaison with them.”

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