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CRIME

After woman’s body found in barrel, husband may walk free

A woman disappeared in Hanover 24 years ago, but no one reported her missing. Although her husband has now confessed to her murder, he still may not step foot in jail.

After woman's body found in barrel, husband may walk free
Franziska S., who went missing 24 years ago. Photo: Hanover police.

Police made a grisly find in northern Germany this September when they discovered the body of a woman, mummified inside a metal barrel in her husband’s garage.

But the story gets stranger from there.

The body belonged to Franziska S., who was last seen in Hanover in 1992 when she was 26 years old. But at the time of her disappearance, no one reported her missing, police reported on Wednesday.

Her family had been convinced, presumably by the husband, that the pair had separated and she was living abroad, so there had never been a missing person report or further investigation. Prosecutors said they believed the husband had forged a message from her to her relatives stating “I am no longer here, and I am leaving”.

The family had not always had close contact with Franziska S., who had lived in a women’s shelter from the age of 16 until she was 19.

After she had been missing for more than 20 years, her family members decided to go to police in 2013.

When her husband, now 52, was questioned in the spring of this year, his story was at first inconsistent, leading officials to suspect that he had killed her.

In September, investigators went to the man’s new home in Neumünster – two and a half hours north of Hanover in Schleswig-Holstein – to confront him. It was there that he admitted to having strangled his wife to death in 1992 during a fight.

He also confessed that he had put her body inside of a metal cask, welded it shut and brought it along with him when he moved to northern Germany a decade later. Police arrested the man after finding the cask with her corpse inside a garage he had rented.

The husband faced manslaughter charges, but state prosecutors realized that the statute of limitations for such a crime was 20 years – and thus he was years overdue. Therefore prosecutors said they had to release him.

In Germany, the crime of murder does not have a statute of limitations, but manslaughter does.

But officials are still continuing the investigation into the crime, which is also made difficult by the fact that so much time has passed. And finding witnesses who had contact with Franziska S. is also a challenge – no one seemed concerned enough to report her missing more than two decades ago.

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CRIME

German man jailed for killing petrol station worker in mask row

A 50-year-old German man was jailed for life Tuesday for shooting dead a petrol station cashier because he was angry about being told to wear a mask while buying beer.

German man jailed for killing petrol station worker in mask row

The September 2021 murder in the western town of Idar-Oberstein shocked Germany, which saw a vocal anti-mask and anti-vaccine movement emerge in response to the government’s coronavirus restrictions.

The row started when 20-year-old student worker Alex W. asked the man to put on a mask inside the shop, as required in all German stores at the time.

After a brief argument, the man left.

The perpetrator – identified only as Mario N. – returned about an hour and a half later, this time wearing a mask. But as he bought his six-pack of beer to the till, he took off his mask and another argument ensued.

He then pulled out a revolver and shot the cashier in the head point-blank.

On Tuesday, the district court in Bad-Kreuznach convicted Mario N. of murder and unlawful possession of a firearm, and handed him a life sentence.

READ ALSO: Shock in Germany after cashier shot dead in Covid mask row

Under German law, people given a life sentence can usually seek parole after 15 years. His defence team had sought a sentence of manslaughter, rather than murder.

At the start of the trial, prosecutor Nicole Frohn told how Mario N. had felt increasingly angry about the measures imposed to curb the pandemic, seeing them as an infringement on his rights.

“Since he knew he couldn’t reach the politicians responsible, he decided to kill him (Alex W.),” she said.

Mario N. turned himself in to police the day after the shooting.

German has relaxed most of its coronavirus rules, although masks are still required in some settings, such as public transport.

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