Captive Teen Rescued From Locked Apartment; Israel Police Believe Parents Held Him There for Years

Boy, 14, discovered after neighbors called inspectors complaining about stench ■ Parents, who moved to Israel from Russia, detained ■ Family never reported boy's existence

The house where the boy was found.
Gil Eliyahu

The Israel Police found a 14-year-old boy in a sealed, neglected apartment in the central Israeli city of Hadera on Thursday. The police suspect that his parents, who were in the apartment when the boy was found, kept the teen locked up there almost continuously for eight years. The parents, who moved to Israel from Russia in the 1990s, were detained.

The family moved to Hadera in 2009, according to municipal records, but the family never reported the existence of the boy. An initial investigation revealed that he had not been registered with any educational institution in Hadera since 2009.

The boy told social services officials that his parents took him out into the building's courtyard once every two weeks for about half an hour. He also said that he usually slept with his parents in their double bed and spent the entire day at home.

The boy was discovered after neighbors called in environmental inspectors complaining about the stench emanating from the apartment. The inspectors found the apartment sealed and called in police and rescue forces.

Social welfare authorities have launched their own investigation of the case. From initial findings, the boy and his parents, who are in their 50s and 60s, had not been known to social services authorities either in Hadera or in Netanya, where they had lived previously. 

The Social Affairs Ministry said the apartment was chock full of various items, leading to the assumption that the parents suffer from compulsive hoarding disorder. It was also reported that the boy has two adult sisters who do not live with their parents and whom authorities are now attempting to locate.

Ministry officials want to determine whether the sisters are capable of caring for him and are also looking for other placement options for the teen after he will be discharged from the hospital, where he was referred for a medical exam. The ministry said a court order would be sought ordering the boy removed from his parents' custody.

The director of the Hadera environmental department, Yitzhak Buzaglo, who was called to the apartment, said he in turn contacted the police and social welfare authorities. "The police knocked on the door and no one answered. They ultimately entered through the window," Buzaglo said.

According to Buzaglo, the parents were in the apartment when authorities found the boy, whose hair was disheveled and who was wearing clothes that were small on him. The boy reportedly spoke to the authorities in Hebrew, telling them that he was all right.

The apartment was full of refuse, Buzaglo told reporters. "I've encountered a lot of stories. I've worked at city hall for 20 years, but I have never encountered such a thing."

Buzaglo said the parents themselves appeared neglected. A washing machine had been placed against the front door of the apartment. "I barely managed to walk around the apartment because the entire floor was full of trash and boxes. I saw one double bed. I don't know where the boy slept," Buzaglo said, adding that "there was no air in the home. They hadn't opened the windows."

The parents were taken in for questioning, and the boy was placed with social service authorities, police said, adding that they "intend to continue investigating the circumstances of the incident."

Attorney Dan Gilad, the mother’s public defender, said his client claimed “that she acted out of concern for her son, who suffers from medical problems, and that the boy was in fact receiving medical care.” 

“The mother is upset and is in a difficult emotional state, mainly out of concern for her son’s situation,” Gilad added.