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Children spent two years alone

FIVE CHILDREN, abandoned by their father, lived alone in a house near Lille in northern France for two years. The children, who were aged between 8 and 15 when their father left, said nothing to the authorities nor to their mother in Portugal, because they feared being placed in care and separated.

They went to bed early, turned up at school on time and worked at their lessons. "They were always washed and well turned-out," a neighbour told the newspaper Liberation yesterday.

The parentless life of the children came to light when two of them were struck down by acute appendicitis. They were taken to hospital and diagnosed as suffering from malnutrition.

The children, originally from the Cape Verde islands, were helped and sometimes fed by Capeverdian neighbours. The eldest girls, 15 and 14 at the time, looked after a girl aged 10 and boys aged 13 and 8.

Three of the children now live with their mother who has come to France, while two have chosen to join their father.