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Believed killer of 9-year-old is no longer alive

PHOTO: Stanislav Moshkov

The 9-year-old Narva girl whose naked body was found five days after her disappearance not far from her home in the northeast Estonian border city was murdered by a man who intentionally took an overdose of drugs and died days after being contacted by investigators, prosecutors believe.

Police have taken DNA samples from almost 2,900 people and carried out several thousand investigation procedures to solve the murder of the 9-year-old victim, Varvara. Investigators have identified the person whose DNA is consistent with the samples taken from the victim and the place where the body was found, but are lacking the possibility to gather additional evidence to link the man to the crime.

Varvara went missing on March 18, 2012 and her body was found covered with snow on an unused plot of land not far from her home five days later. Evidence collected by investigators shows that the body was brought to the place where it was found after the girl had died. The death is believed to have occurred on the evening of the day the girl went missing.

The cause of death was strangulation and before that a sexual crime had been committed with regard to the victim. There were no other signs of violence on the victim's body apart from the marks of strangulation on the neck.   

Experts' work with the evidence collected at the place where the victim's body was found was made difficult by the fact that there had been snowfall and a period of thaw between the time the girl went missing and the time the body was found. Nor can it be ruled out that the body had been washed, experts say. Despite this experts identified a Y, or male chromosomal DNA profile in a sample taken from the victim's body that turned out to be the main lead in the investigation.

Officers interviewed thousands of people to gather information about how the child disappeared and potential perpetrators. People who had been in the area judging by the data of mobile phone operators, security cameras and payment information were subjected to checks. Besides the police checked about one hundred individuals who had previously committed sexual crimes or serious crimes agains person.

The second important task for the police was to identify the place where the crime was committed, which the police have been unable to do yet.

Of the DNA samples from 2,855 men examined during four years 11 had a Y-chromosomal DNA profile matching the profile of the DNA taken from the victim. Since it was clear that identification of the male chromosome profile is not enough to find the perpetrator and prove his guilt, the possibility to additionally analyze the samples taken from the victim's body and the place where the body was found were searched for internationally.

In the fall of 2014, 13 hairs that could not be analyzed in Estonia were sent to Austria for additional testing. Austrian experts managed to identify in three of them mitochondrial DNA that did not belong to the victim and compared them with the DNA of the bearers of the male chromosome in Estonia. As a result of the work of experts the police were led to two men from the same family whose mitochondrial and Y-chromosomal DNA matched the profile of the sample found on the victim and the place where the body was found.

Police established that for one of the men it had not been possible to commit the crime and continued checking the second man. A DNA sample was taken from the man in February 2014. Three days later the man died in an apartment house in Tallinn after intentionally taking a drug overdose.

It has been established that the man was in the same area when the crime was committed. At the same time, the police have no information abut his activities at the time when the girl went missing and it may be possible that he had contact with the child earlier.

Because the man has died it is not possible to establish what he did on March 18, 2012 or gather data that would conclusively link him to the disappearance and killing of the child. It is also not possible at this point to additionally process samples taken from the victim and the place where the body was found to identify a unique DNA profile that would be sound enough evidence to link the man to the victim's death. Therefore the criminal procedure to investigate the death was ended on Monday. A reopening of the investigation is possible if it is necessitated by progress in scientific methods or additional information is received.

More than a hundred police personnel took part in the investigation during the four years. In addition to experts from Estonia top level Austrian, Dutch and German experts were involved in analyzing the samples taken from the victim's body and the place where the body was found. Leads were searched for using channels of the Europol, Interpol and the police of neighboring countries, and profilers from the UK and Russia were brought in. More than 2,100 people were questioned.

Proceedings that got their start as part of the investigation into the killing of Varvara have resulted in tens of sexual perpetrators being brought to justice in Estonia for altogether 121 alleged offenses during the four years.

The 9-year-old girl went missing near her Narva home on March 18, 2012. Numerous police personnel and tens of volunteers joined the search for the missing girl in the following days.

The girl's naked body was found on March 23 not far from the place where she was last seen alive, during a repeat check of the same location. Police had been unable to locate the body when going through the area for the first time because the body lay under a layer of snow.