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Child theft a lie: Cops say dad abandoned boy

SHANGHAI police said yesterday that the story about a toddler being stolen from his father's car was a hoax and that the father abandoned the boy because of financial hardship.

Yangpu District police detained the man for 10 days while they explore possible charges.

Zheng Zhenyu, a Jiangxi Province native who runs a small book shop in the city, confessed to police that the two-year-old boy is his second child and that he dropped him off in another city because the family couldn't afford to raise both children.

Zheng originally told police that he left the boy sleeping in his car last Saturday in the Wujiaochang area of Yangpu District, while he went to buy stock for his bookstore. When he returned about 45 minutes later, he found the rear door unlocked and the boy missing.

But after police questioned Zheng closely and checked surveillance cameras, they began to doubt his story.

"Child thefts are given top priority," said Chen Rongrong of the Yangpu Public Security Bureau. "Inconsistencies were found in the father's statement after intense questioning and investigation."

What actually happened, police said, was that Zheng drove the child to Jiaxing City in neighboring Zhejiang Province about 11am on Saturday and left him in a park.

He then returned to Shanghai and reported the child missing to the city police at about 4pm on Saturday.

But Jiaxing police said they found the little boy crying in the park about 1:30pm. The child was too young to give them his identity and address.

And Zheng's car was tracked to Jiaxing using video surveillance cameras. Worrying that the truth was going to come out, Zheng went back to Jiaxing to pick up his son on Tuesday, after saying he called police in neighboring cities to search for his child and officers told him the boy was there.

But under further questioning and after being confronted with the conflicting video evidence, Zheng admitted he had abandoned the boy, police said.

The book dealer has a 13-year-old daughter studying at a school in Zhejiang Province and does not have deep affection for the boy, who is raised mainly by Zheng's parents, police said, adding that the father now regrets his actions.

"I'd like to forgive him as the child is safely back home," his wife said. His family members were all relieved by the return of the boy and expressed understanding over the father's behavior.

Yang Yongming, director of the Shanghai Youth Protection Office, however, worried that the father won't be sufficiently punished.


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