Two teenage boys allegedly tied up a 14-year-old and burnt him with a cigarette lighter in a bullying attack that has raised questions about violence and sadism among teenage children.
The 14-year-old boy apparently wagged school on Thursday and went with friends to an Ellenbrook haunt known as the "cubbyhouse".
It was there that police allege two older boys attacked him, tying him to a chair, blindfolding and burning him. He also told police he was punched in the face and arms.
The boy's schoolmates allegedly became scared of the escalating attack and fled the makeshift hut.
Midland detectives claim the attack eventually stopped and when the 14-year-old freed himself, he was alone in the cubby, which is in a patch of bush in the centre of Ellenbrook.
As he ran from the bush, his attackers were waiting nearby and called him over before dragging him to a hole they had dug, police claim. The pair allegedly held him down in the makeshift "grave" and started pushing sand over him.
The attack stopped when the 14-year-old's friends returned and told the teenage attackers to leave him alone, police claim.
Det-Sgt Gary Butler said the 14-year-old had been so traumatised he had not reported the allegations to police for almost 24 hours.
Detectives questioned several teenagers yesterday, charging a 15-year-old and a 17-year-old with depravation of liberty and assault occasioning bodily harm.
The 15-year-old was also questioned over other matters and faces charges including assault with intent to rob, criminal damage and attempted stealing.
The teenagers charged were former students from the boy's school.
Police are investigating whether anyone else was involved.
"Children and parents need to have confidence that they can come to police and we will treat their complaint seriously," Det-Sgt Butler said. "This is not just a prank - it is an act of bullying that has got out of control and become a criminal offence."
The case is similar to a 2007 crime where four truanting boys attacked a 13-year-old schoolmate near their Hills high school and stripped him to his underwear, whipped him until he bled, threatened him with an axe and pushed him into a grave dug for him.
Derek Amenkowicz, a child and adolescent psychologist with Hannington Clinical Psychology, said serious bullying cases were on the rise. "It's not just kids down at the cricket oval teasing each other, there's more with an almost sadistic theme," he said.
Mr Amenkowicz said some children were developing a concerning lack of empathy to others' perspectives. He linked it to the increased use of social media tools.