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CRIME

Police admit blunder led them to link neo-Nazi killer to child murder

German police admitted Wednesday they had falsely linked two high-profile crimes - an unsolved child murder and a neo-Nazi cell's killing spree - because investigators accidentally contaminated DNA evidence.

Police admit blunder led them to link neo-Nazi killer to child murder
A memorial stone for Peggy Knobloch. Photo: DPA

Police last October reported that genetic material found near the skeleton of nine-year-old schoolgirl Peggy Knobloch, who went missing in 2001, matched that of the late neo-Nazi gunman Uwe Boehnhardt.

This seemed to connect the child's death to the 2000-2007 racist murder spree on the National Socialist Underground, far-right militants who shot dead nine men with migrant roots and a policewoman.

But it has now been established that the DNA found near the girl's corpse was in fact inadvertently transferred there through “police equipment” from Boehnhardt's corpse, said prosecutor Daniel Goetz.

Boehnhardt and his accomplice Uwe Mundlos had died five years ago in an apparent murder-suicide following a botched bank robbery.

It remained unclear which piece of police equipment had been used in both cases, Goetz said, but media reports have pointed at a measuring stick police use on crime scenes.

Something like that “should not have happened,” admitted Uwe Ebner, who leads a special inquiry into the child murder.

Knobloch vanished on her way home from school in 2001 near her home, in a high-profile case that captivated the nation.

Hundreds of police and soldiers scoured the area for weeks, but her remains were only found in July last year, some 15 kilometres (nine miles) from her home, by a mushroom picker.

After her death, a man with a learning disability spent more than 10 years in jail for her murder before he was exonerated and released, as police resumed the search for her murderer.

GERMANY AND ISRAEL

Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

The German government says it is in talks over further compensation for victims of the attack on the Munich Olympics, as the 50th anniversary of the atrocity approaches.

Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

Ahead of the commemoration in September, relatives of the Israelis killed have indicated they are unhappy with what Germany is offering.

“Conversations based on trust are taking place with representatives of the victims’ families,” a German interior ministry spokesman told AFP when asked about the negotiations.

He did not specify who would benefit or how much money had been earmarked, saying only that any package would “again” be financed by the federal government, the state of Bavaria and the city of Munich.

On September 5th, 1972, eight gunmen broke into the Israeli team’s flat at the Olympic village, shooting dead two and taking nine Israelis hostage, threatening to kill them unless 232 Palestinian prisoners were released.

West German police responded with a bungled rescue operation in which all nine hostages were killed, along with five of the eight hostage-takers and a police officer.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists  held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Horst Ossingert

The spokeswoman for the victims’ families, Ankie Spitzer, told the German media group RND that the amount currently on the table was “insulting” and threatened a boycott of this year’s commemorations.

She said Berlin was offering a total of €10 million including around €4.5 million already provided in compensation between 1972 and 2002 — an amount she said did not correspond to international standards. 

“We are angry and disappointed,” said Spitzer, the widow of fencing coach Andre Spitzer who was killed in the attack. “We never wanted to talk publicly about money but now we are forced to.”

RND reported that the German and Israeli governments would like to see an accord by August 15th.

The interior ministry spokesman said that beyond compensation, Germany intended to use the anniversary for fresh “historical appraisal, remembrance and recognition”.

He said this would include the formation of a commission of German and Israeli historians to “comprehensively” establish what happened “from the perspective of the year 2022”.

This would lead to “an offer of further acts of acknowledgement of the relatives of the victims of the attack” and the “grave consequences” they suffered.

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