The 1970 case of a woman found murdered a few metres from her parents' home in Flensburg in Schleswig Holstein had mystified police for decades, the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper reported on Friday.
Now, with the help of modern techniques, police said they had identified the culprit almost exactly 43 years to the day after the 20-year-old victim was found in a wood alongside a rail goods depot in January 1970.
After taking her handbag, the murderer tried to hide her body under boxes he found at the crime scene. An autopsy showed she had been strangled to death, but a lack of further evidence meant the investigators' trail soon ran cold.
Just a few days after the crime, investigators had the man who turned out to be the actual culprit in their sights - a then 20-year-old Bundeswehr soldier posted in a nearby barracks.
But police said they did not have enough evidence against him to bring charges.
The case was reopened in spring 2012 in the hope that DNA analysis could help shed some light on the four-decade-old mystery, the Süddeutsche Zeitung said.
Police analysed voluntary saliva samples from suspects, including the culprit himself, who gave up his DNA sample willingly.
By the end of August analysts had established a match between his DNA and traces found on the victim.
But it was already too late. The murderer would never be brought to justice - he died just a month before of natural causes.