Adopted boy 'threatened to burn family's house down'

Russia is furious at orphan's return, alone on a plane, but his US 'grandmother' talks of a reign of terror

Torry Hansen was so eager to become a mother that she adopted an older child – a seven-year-old boy – from a foreign country, two factors that scare off many prospective parents. Her bigger fears came later. Torry's mother, Nancy Hansen, said the .child's violent episodes – which culminated in a threat to burn the family's home to the ground – terrified them into a shocking solution: the boy they renamed Justin was put on a plane, alone, and sent back to Russia.

Now, outraged Russian officials are calling for a halt to adoptions by Americans, and Tennessee authorities are investigating the family. However, Nancy Hansen said yesterday that the motives of her daughter – a 33-year-old unmarried nurse – were sincere. "The intent of my daughter was to have a family, and the intent of my whole family was to love that child," she said.

The family was told the boy, whose Russian name is Artyom Savelyev, was healthy in September when he was brought from the town of Partizansk in Russia's Far East to his new home in the heart of Tennessee horse country. The skinny boy seemed happy, but the behavioural problems began soon after, Ms Hansen said. She added: "The Russian orphanage officials completely lied to [Torry] because they wanted to get rid of him."

Ms Hansen chronicled a list of problems: hitting, screaming and spitting at his mother and threatening to kill family members. She said his eruptions were often sparked when he was denied something he wanted, such as toys or video games.

"He drew a picture of our house burning down and he'll tell anybody that he's going to burn our house down with us in it," she said. "It got to be where you feared for your safety. It was terrible." Ms Hansen said she thought that, with their love, they could help him. "I was wrong," she said.

Adoption experts say many families are blinded by their desire to adopt and don't always understand what the orphans have sometimes endured – especially older children who may have been neglected or abandoned. "They're not prepared to appreciate, psychologically, the kinds of conditions these kids have been exposed to and the effect it has had on them," said Joseph LaBarbera, a clinical psychologist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville.

Ms Hansen said her daughter sought advice from psychologists but never arranged for her adoptive son to meet one. They chose an English-language home-study programme, hoping to enroll him in traditional school in the autumn. In February, Ms Hansen said, the boy flew into a rage, picked up a 3lb statue and tried to attack his aunt with it. Ms Hansen said he was apparently upset after his aunt asked him to correct maths problems on his school work.

The family bought the plane ticket, and arranged to pay a man in Russia $200 to take him from the airport and drop him off at the Russian education ministry. He arrived alone, on Thursday, on a United Airlines flight from Washington. With him was a note that read, in part: "After giving my best to this child, I am sorry to say that for the safety of my family, friends, and myself, I no longer wish to parent this child."

The family, meanwhile, has rejected the Kremlin's sharp criticism and any notion that the boy was simply abandoned.

The Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, has called the boy's return "the last straw", after a string of foreign adoption failures, and officials in Moscow have called for a suspension of all US adoptions in Russia. The Russian education ministry immediately suspended the licence of the group involved in the adoption – the World Association for Children and Parents – for the duration of an investigation. Experts and adoptive parents have reacted with similar shock, though they stress that the vast majority of adopted children are raised in happy, loving homes.

Bob Tuke, a Nashville attorney and member of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys, said abandonment charges against the family could depend on whether the boy was a US citizen. It wasn't clear if the adoption had become final, but a Tennessee health department spokeswoman said there was no birth certificate issued for the boy, a step that would indicate he had become a US citizen.

There was no response to a knock at Torry Hansen's door, and a phone listing could not be found for her. The family has now retained an attorney.

Randall Boyce, the Bedford County Sheriff, said it was not clear whether any laws had been broken.

"This is extremely unusual," he said. "I don't think anyone has seen something like this before."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Starting the day with a three-egg omelette could make people more charitable, according to new research
science
News
Top Gun actor Val Kilmer lost his small claims court battle in Van Nuys with the landlord of his Malibu mansion to get back his deposit after wallpapering over the kitchen cabinets
people
News
Comedian Ted Robbins collapsed on stage during a performance of Phoenix Nights Live at Manchester Arena (Rex)
people
News
The actress Geraldine McEwan was perhaps best known for playing Agatha Christie's detective, Miss Marple (Rex)
peopleShe won a Bafta in 1991 for her role in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
News
newsPatrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
News
Robert Fraser, aka Groovy Bob
peopleA new show honours Robert Fraser, one of the era's forgotten players
Life and Style
Torsten Sherwood's Noook is a simple construction toy for creating mini-architecture
tech
Sport
David Silva celebrates with Sergio Aguero after equalising against Chelsea
footballChelsea 1 Manchester City 1
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links