How the police, the school and the neighbours in Daugavpils for years did not notice the paedophile, who was caught only thanks to an anonymous Re:Baltica reader.
The envelope was addressed simply to Re:Baltica and was delivered to our office. It contained a card with an image of brown soil, blue waves and a dedication: “Especially for you”. Inside of it was a memory card and a faint inscription scrawled in English: “Save the children”.
The memory card contained 100 files—99 photos and videos, and a document. The photos could have been pulled out of a handbook for paedophiles. At least three boys aged 10-14 next to a plate of food in underwear with their legs spread while absorbed in playing games on their phones or on the computer. Going through the images, there was progressively more nudity and pornography. Some of the pictures also showed a grown man. The oldest ones were from 2014, the newest—from 2019.
The attached document contained just a few lines—a last name, an incomplete address and a request to not disclose the source of the information, as well as note that the man has been doing it since 2012 and is not stopping.
I took my phone and called the only person I knew who could have an idea of what would be the best way to proceed. Police investigator Lilija Latišenko-Burakova works with the hardest cases of sexual abuse crimes in Riga and the region. We met during the case against the immunologist accused of sexual crimes against his female patients. The case seemed hopeless, but thanks to her it made it to court.
“Investigator, we have received a data carrier from an anonymous source that contains child pornography,” I told her without a long introduction. After a moment of silence she said: “Sanita, I think you have to come over to us.” “I agree. Will be there soon.”
A journalist’s first instinct is to start investigating, to discover, to “nail down” himself. But this time the most important thing was to stop what was going on and to do it as soon as possible.
On November 2, 2022 the police opened a criminal investigation for sexual violence, the involvement of minors in the production of pornography and the circulation of such materials. A few days later we received a call—the police was moving the case to Daugavpils as that was where the crimes were committed.
“No, please,” I begged because at that point I already knew that the Daugavpils police had previously missed at least two opportunities to stop the suspect. The investigator assured me that it wouldn’t be like that this time because a former colleague of hers with proper experience now works in Daugavpils. “Ok, but we are also going to be working on the case,” I said.
A week later the investigator called me again and asked me to not go to Daugavpils for at least a month to not scare the man off. The police found his lifestyle suspicious—unemployed, but driving a new car,—so the court had allowed to surveil him. What if besides using the teenagers he was also selling the pornography and living off the profits?
While the police were working in Daugavpils, I was searching for information about the person online.
It turned out that he was not a stranger to the inhabitants of Daugavpils—many years ago there was an active troll with the user name “Pasha” on the city message boards. I started scrolling through comments where Pasha was bragging about having worked at several newspapers in Daugavpils as a cartoonist, trolling politicians.
Then a bomb exploded on the screen. “This person has been in prison for child rape. Where is the police? Comments like the ones he writes should be checked. You don’t know what is happening inside of the head of a person like that,” a person, who had recognized Pasha as someone who trolled him, wrote and had also posted a photo of him.
At the time this source was an entrepreneur with political connections who also owned tennis courts. He told Re:Baltica that he figured out “Pasha” when the troll had called to rent a court for a game and gave his online name. The tennis court owner called him from a different number and invited Pasha to meet up so that he could give him a package. The man took a picture of him and then gave it to a local online news site.
The face I saw on the screen was of the same man that I had seen in the photos that were sent to us anonymously.
His name was Pāvels Kasperovičs.
Sources with access to the archived court rulings confirmed to Re:Baltica that Kasperovičs was convicted for sexual abuse of a minor and spent five years—from 2005 to 2010—in prison. After his release from prison no one monitored how he was living. The compulsory probation for sexual crimes against minors was made law a year later. Kasperovičs was free as a bird.
The Daugavpils police had at least two opportunities to stop it during this time. If they had only taken information reported to them more seriously.
In 2017 the duty station of the Daugavpils police received a call that a nine year old boy was harassed by a man on the street next to the sports’ school. The record in the police system has a note: “Do not provide information to mass media” (the police explained that they do that when they don’t have all the details yet or to protect the minor, but no news about this incident could be found in the local media afterwards). The police had found out that the man in question was Kasperovičs.
In 2019 he approached another child in the hall of the same sports’ school. It prides itself that it used to be the largest sports’ school in Latvia—young volleyball, basketball, football players and other athletes train there. However, their gym can be visited by anyone who pays a couple of euros.
Daugavpils Sports School, where Kasperovic had identified several potential victims. Photo: Sanita Jemberga
“My son went to practise at the volleyball school. This man came up to him there and asked him what he does, what are his future plans, what does he want to do. So, it was at volleyball practice that they met and the man started inviting him to his place. As far as I know, he was there more than once,” the boy’s mom told Re:Baltica.
Her attentiveness saved her son.
“It was an autumn day, we were going out for a walk, the entire family—me, my husband, my daughter, the small child. My son had left about an hour and a half earlier. I called him and said to come meet us. There was silence in the background… I asked him—where are you? Walking with a friend, he replied. It all sounded so suspicious. I asked where, and he said: by the grocery store,” the woman remembered (the family asked to remain anonymous so that they would not be recognized in Daugavpils).
“I asked again—where? He responded that he’s at his friend’s, in the apartment. I asked —how old is the friend? Is he the same age as you? He responded with no. I asked further—is he older? Yes. Ok, well, how much older—20? No. The same age as dad? No. Well then, is he really old? My son said yes. I asked —what are you doing? Playing video games. Then I yelled at him to get his stuff and to get out as fast as possible.”
When the son came home he didn’t want to talk about it at all, but the mom threatened to call the police. “At that point he started talking—mom, I will tell you everything. He is a good man, didn’t do anything bad, he just played with me and gave me treats. I asked him—did he harass you, touch you, or do anything else? He said—no, just a hug when we met, that is all. I asked him—are you sure? Yes, he didn’t do anything bad to me,” the mother retells the conversation.
The father of the boy found the address of the apartment and went there. The door was opened by Kasperovičs’ mother. “She started screaming—why are you here? My husband asked—why are you bringing a minor to your apartment? She said that they were playing video games, so I gave him some treats. There was no fight, nothing like that. Afterwards my husband went to report this to the police and was there for a while. We were, of course, in shock.”
The police refused to open a criminal probe. They didn’t even warn the sports’ school despite the fact that both events took place there. “This is the first time I am hearing about this,” Imants Utināns, the longtime director of the sports’ school, told Re:Baltica.
The State Police delegated two of its employees to speak to us in Daugavpils—Vladislavs Okuņevs, the head of the South Latgale station, to answer questions on the past case, and Inguna Pužule, an employee of the Criminal Police bureau in the Latgale regional administration, on the current one. Pužule is more experienced in speaking with the media than the investigator of the last Kasperovičs’ criminal case who Re:Baltica asked to talk to.
From left: press secretary of the State Police Simona Grāvīte (left), journalist Sanita Jemberga, employee of the Latgale Regional Administration Criminal Police Bureau Inguna Pužule and chief of the South Latgale Police Station Vladislavs Okuņevs. Photo: Inga Spriņģe
Okuņevs says that in both of the previous cases, the police evaluated Kasperovičs’ actions, but didn’t identify any crimes. He declines to give more information on what exactly was done: “The police did everything to find evidence of his potential—let’s call it—intention, but unfortunately at the time such evidence was not found.”
Okuņevs worked at a completely different police department at the time. Information found online shows that one of the officers involved in the event of 2019 no longer works for the police, but the other one didn’t respond to Re:Baltica’s attempts to get in touch.
But it is clear that without starting a criminal investigation, it is not possible to search the house or the communication devices of the suspect. In the best case scenario, both sides have been questioned, the child has possibly gone through a psychological evaluation and has been asked to identify an individual—we don’t know. But what we do know is that the content on the data carrier sent to Re:Baltica shows children both in 2017 and in 2019.
Another question remains unclear—did the police know about Kasperovičs’ previous conviction?
The police database has a file on each citizen with basic information about them—their passport photo, address, communication channels, as well as previous interactions with the police and past convictions. According to the information obtained by Re:Baltica, Kasperovičs’ file did not contain information on his previous conviction. Experienced investigators say that it is something that sometimes happens, and quite often, for example, this kind of information has not been passed on to the maintainer of the system.
Speaking theoretically, Okuņevs says that the file should have showed the previous conviction, but he can’t open it in front of us, because only investigators have a right to do that. And also in the new case the facts should be evaluated separately, a previous conviction can’t play any role.
“But how do you actually feel about it? When these facts came together, the images arrived, and then you looked at the history of this person—how did you feel?” my colleague Inga Spriņģe, who has joined me on a trip to Daugavpils to look into the old case, can’t help but ask.
“Of course it’s not a good feeling. It’s never pleasant to work with these kinds of cases,” Pužule responds. “But to note, the children who appeared in 2017 and 2019 are not part of the current criminal case,” Okuņevs adds.
We will never know what Kasperovičs would say in his defence. The police detained the man born in 1978 last year on December 12. He was accused of sexual violence, production of child pornography and involving minors in the process. The court decided to keep him imprisoned during the investigation—for two months to start with.
On the night that he was put in the Daugavpils prison, the man hanged himself.
The administration of imprisonment facilities told Re:Baltica that the man was alone in his cell, but declined to give more information on how the suicide was possible. Every year on average 5 to 7 people commit suicide in Latvian prisons. According to the law, the cases against them then have to be closed.
In the old message board comments, the user with the name “Pasha” says that he never raped a minor and compares himself to the director Roman Polanski and the singer Michael Jackson, both of whom were attracted by minors.
We also don’t know what his mother, who shared the apartment with him, has to say about what happened. The law allows one to choose not to testify against a relative. And also people from the same household can’t be charged with failure to report a crime. On the day that Re:Baltica tried to meet her, nobody opened the door. She also did not respond to the note left with the neighbours in which we explained that we would like to speak to her about her son and left our phone number. The neighbour refused to speak about the family.
Meanwhile, the police have not closed the case yet because they are going through the computer and other communication devices found during the search. Three boys have been recognized as victims, but the images show more children. The police won’t disclose the exact number.
This was the reason why Re:Baltica decided to reveal the name of the suspect (initially we were planning to leave out his real name as the person can’t defend himself). But if there is no name, the potential victims can’t even know that a case has been started and approach the police. The police remind that victims of crimes are entitled to compensation from the state, but Re:Baltica believes that finding out the true scale of the actions committed by this man is as important.
Pužule says that currently the police believe that the child pornography created by the man was used solely for his own needs and he didn’t send it to, for example, the global paedophile networks. According to her, this is what the information on his communication channels—phone, e-mail, and others, indicates.
“If you believe that this data has not been circulated, how did they make their way to the data carrier that was sent to Re:Baltica?” I sceptically ask Pužule. “With a data carrier,” she responds.
“But the data carrier—was stolen, or…?” I inquire further.
“As I understand, in this case there were several people who frequented the home of this person,” Pužule says. “It’s a shame that the person did not say more about how the data made it to you. But thank you to the person for reporting it, because it is unlikely that the children who we are now aware of, would have talked about what happened on their own anytime soon.”
Author: Sanita Jemberga, Re:Baltica
Contributor: Inga Spriņģe, Re:Baltica
Illustration by Krišs Salmanis, IR
Technical support: Madara Eihe
Social networks: Inese Liepiņa, Re:Baltica
Translated into English by Ieva Raudsepa
Translated into Russian by rus.tvnet.lv
Annija Petrova (Re:Baltica), Ģederts Ģelzis and Reinis Budze (both Latvian Radio) helped to produce “Open Files” and the podcast for Latvian public broadcaster
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