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CRIME

DNA solves cold case months after killer dies

German police who last year solved a murder case from 43 years ago, using modern DNA analysis found that the culprit died of natural causes - just months after giving them the crucial evidence.

DNA solves cold case months after killer dies
Photo: DPA

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.

The Local/jlb

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CRIME

Former Nazi camp guard, 101, gets five-year jail sentence

A German court on Tuesday handed a five-year jail sentence to a 101-year-old former Nazi concentration camp guard, the oldest person so far to go on trial for complicity in war crimes during the Holocaust.

Former Nazi camp guard, 101, gets five-year jail sentence

Josef S. was found guilty of being an accessory to murder while working as a prison guard at the Sachsenhausen camp in Oranienburg, north of Berlin, between 1942 and 1945, presiding judge Udo Lechtermann said.

The pensioner, who now lives in Brandenburg state, had pleaded innocent, saying he did “absolutely nothing” and was not aware of the gruesome crimes being carried out at the camp.

“I don’t know why I am here,” he said at the close of his trial on Monday.

But prosecutors said he “knowingly and willingly” participated in the murders of 3,518 prisoners at the camp and called for him to be punished with five years behind bars.

READ ALSO: Trials of aging Nazis a ‘reminder for the present’, says German prosecutor

More than 200,000 people, including Jews, Roma, regime opponents and gay people, were detained at the Sachsenhausen camp between 1936 and 1945.

Tens of thousands of inmates died from forced labour, murder, medical experiments, hunger or disease before the camp was liberated by Soviet troops, according to the Sachsenhausen Memorial and Museum.

Prosecutors said the man had aided and abetted the “execution by firing squad of Soviet prisoners of war in 1942” and the murder of prisoners “using the poisonous gas Zyklon B”.

He was 21 years old at the time.

Contradictory statements

During the trial, S. made several inconsistent statements about his past, complaining that his head was getting “mixed up”.

At one point, the centenarian said he had worked as an agricultural labourer in Germany for most of World War II, a claim contradicted by several historical documents bearing his name, date and place of birth.

After the war, the man was transferred to a prison camp in Russia before returning to Germany, where he worked as a farmer and a locksmith.

He remained at liberty during the trial, which began in 2021 but has been delayed several times because of his health.

Despite his conviction, he is highly unlikely to be put behind bars, given his age.

His lawyer Stefan Waterkamp told AFP ahead of the verdict that if found guilty, he would appeal.

More than seven decades after World War II, German prosecutors are racing to bring the last surviving Nazi perpetrators to justice.

The 2011 conviction of former guard John Demjanjuk, on the basis that he served as part of Hitler’s killing machine, set a legal precedent and paved the way for several of these twilight justice cases.

Since then, courts have handed down several guilty verdicts on those grounds rather than for murders or atrocities directly linked to the individual accused.

By David COURBET

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