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Doubts cast on police as 'maskman' jailed for life

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Doubts cast on police as 'maskman' jailed for life
The alleged "mask man" in court. Photo: DPA
12:09 CEST+02:00
A 47-year-old man known as “the maskman” was sentenced to life in jail on Friday on charges of attempted murder and kidnapping - despite the case raising serious questions about the integrity of the Brandenburg police.

Die Welt describes it as one of the most notorious cases in the recent history of the German judicial system.

A man wearing a beekeeper's mask to hide his face was alleged by the prosecution to have preyed on two millionaire families on the outskirts of Berlin for over a year.

First he attacked the wife of a wealthy businessman n front of her villa in Bad Saarow. Then a few months later he tried to shoot her daughter.

A security guard intervened to protect the young woman and took a bullet, leaving him in a wheelchair to this day.

A year later a bank manager was kidnapped from his house not far from the scene of the previous crimes.

According to the victim's account, his assailant blindfolded him and bound him to the back of a kayak before pulling him through the cold autumn waters of Lake Storkow to a wooded island.

After two days tied to a tree he was able to escape captivity injury free, the banker claimed.

The prosecution argued that a string of attacks of this nature deserved a life sentence.

But the defence disputed the charges, saying the evidence was circumstantial and that there was no clear proof linking their client to the crime. They called for the defendant to be cleared of all charges and released.

The prosecution had built their case around a blanket found on the island where the banker was held, which had been stolen from the defendant's neighbourhood.

They also pointed to the man's interest in firearms, although no weapon was ever found relating to the shooting at the villa in Bad Saarow.

In the end the judge at the court in Frankfurt (Oder) agreed with the prosecution.

Doubts over investigation

But the trial raised major questions about the integrity of the main witness, the kidnapped banker, and also the honesty of the Brandenburg police.

Investigations by the defence and a local television channel cast serious doubts on the banker's testimony.

The defence team recreated the kidnapping and found that it was highly unlikely someone could have stayed in the water as long as the man had claimed without sustaining injuries.

Police who gave testimony to the court also claimed that their seniors did not allow them to follow every possible avenue of investigation into the kidnapping, particularly the possibility that it was a sham.

Further questions were asked about the transparency of the police when it emerged they had concealed documents relating to their investigation from the defence team.

A final dramatic twist in the trial came in its closing weeks, when the defence brought forward the possibility of a second suspect - an ex-policeman.

Defence lawyers argued that the police had not properly considered this man as a suspect and called for the man's DNA to be tested against DNA found at the crime scene. But tests conducted by the Office of Criminal Investigation did not find a match.
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