The Baden-Württemberg state office of criminal investigation (LKA) in Stuttgart believes that cotton swabs used to collect DNA evidence at the scene of the brutal murder of a 22-year-old police officer in 2007 could be tainted.
Initially they thought the DNA collected at the site connected the crime to a female suspect known by the German media as the "phantom killer" and the "woman without a face." She was considered to be dangerous and brutal, and had supposedly baffled law enforcement for some 15 years in connection with a string of six murders and robberies.
But if the evidence collected turns out to be from a woman who packaged the cotton swabs, “then it's a very embarrassing story,” head of the Baden-Württemberg division of the GdP police union Josef Schneider said.
According to the Heilbronn public prosecutor's office, the LKA has been working with several other state criminal authorities since April 2008 – when internal investigations began under suspicion that the DNA evidence could be contaminated.
Criminal technicians have tested hundreds of cotton swabs, but these tests have so far provided no clarification of the mysterious DNA.
"There are serious doubts about the existence of the phantom," Bernd Meiners, spokesperson for the Saarbrücken district attorney's office told daily Bild on Thursday. “The DNA traces probably go back to the investigation materials,” he said, adding that a worker at the manufacturer had probably been careless.
According to the paper, the Hamburg manufacturer has delivered to police in Hamburg, Baden-Württemberg, Saarland, Rhineland-Palatinate, Hesse, France and Austria.
Workers at the firm have submitted to DNA tests, the paper said.
The reward for clues leading to the arrest of one of Germany's most hotly pursued criminals was recently doubled to a record €300,000.