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CRIME

New details emerge in ‘worst child sexual abuse scandal in German history’

Horrific details have come to light in the Lügde trailer park child sexual abuse investigation, including that children were forced to abuse each other.

New details emerge in ‘worst child sexual abuse scandal in German history’
The partially demolished dwelling of the alleged perpetrator in Lügde. Photo: DPA

Earlier in 2019, news began to emerge of an organized child pornography ring located at a trailer park in Lügde, North Rhine-Westphalia. 

Two men are said to have carried out child sexual abuse, filming the abuse and distributing it online. More than 40 victims have been identified, with the abuse taking place since the 1990s. 

READ: Police 'failures' probed in the 'largest child abuse scandal in German history'

Reports in the Westfalen-Blatt have shed further light on the nature of the abuse, including that the accused men forced the children to abuse each other. 

A new round of police interviews

A series of interviews with the victims, some of them still children, has taken place over the past weeks. The new information has emerged from these interviews. 

Peter Wüller, a lawyer for four of the victims, told the Westfalen-Blatt that reading the victims’ statements was challenging. 

“It’s hard to read the children’s statements without emotion,” he said. 

“If I look at the faces of the little ones and I read what’s been done to them, I feel sick.

“What happened in Lügde is beyond any idea.”

The older of the two men, known as Andreas V (56) due to German privacy standards, worked together with his accomplice Mario S (34) to engage in the activity and produce the videos. 

The caravan where some of the alleged abuse is said to have taken place. Image: DPA

‘The largest abuse scandal in German history’

As reported by The Local in April, the case has gripped the nation’s attention over the past two months – both for the severity of the crimes and the subsequent failures of the police investigation. 

Police had been alerted to instances of abuse in the caravan park, but failed to properly investigate. Only a handful of phone interviews were undertaken, with no further efforts to follow up on the reports.  

The failures did not end there. Once the crimes had been detected, a suitcase full of evidence went missing from a police storage locker. 

Two police officers from the Detmold squad were stood down from duty and are being investigated for obstruction of justice offences. 

The SPD’s Hartmut Ganzke has previously called for North Rhine-Westphalia's Interior Minister Herbert Reul to resign, calling the incidents “the largest abuse scandal in the history of the country”. 

A new investigative team

Wüller has praised the current investigative team, particularly their handling of the victim interview process. 

“The children were very sensitively and patiently questioned,” he said. “They were able to provide very detailed information and they can easily differentiate between the two main defendants.”

Wüller said that the missing evidence was of course problematic, but the detailed and precise nature of the questioning meant that a conviction was likely.

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CRIME

One injured in school shooting in Bremerhaven

A 21-year-old gunman opened fire at a secondary school in northern Germany on Thursday, badly injuring a female member of staff before being arrested, police said.

One injured in school shooting in Bremerhaven

The incident happened at the Lloyd Gymnasium school in the centre of Bremerhaven, a city on Germany’s North Sea coast, on Thursday morning. 

“The armed person has been arrested and is in police custody,” police said in a statement. The injured woman was not a pupil, police said.

They said the suspect had entered the school building and fired at a female member of staff, who was “seriously injured”.

The alarm was quickly raised and police said they detained the suspect at a nearby location soon after and had seized his weapon at the scene.

The injured woman is being treated in hospital.

A video circulating on social media and German news sites appeared to capture the moment the gunman was arrested.

A man dressed in black is seen lying face down on a street corner, with a weapon next to him, before being handcuffed by officers.

But there was no immediate confirmation of reports the alleged weapon was a crossbow.

Bremerhaven police tweeted in the morning that a large deployment was under way in the city centre and asked residents to avoid the Mayor-Martin-Donandt square and surrounding streets, in the vicinity of the Lloyd secondary school.

Local news site Nord24 said a school pupil had heard shots being fired and called the police. Pupils barricaded themselves in their classrooms.

Police launched a large-scale operation and cordoned off the area around the school while they carried out inquiries. 

By mid-afternoon, police said special forces had completed their search and the last people had left the building.

Authorities set up a phone hotline for concerned parents. Many parents had gathered in front of the school after being alerted by their children.

Pupils and staff are receiving psychological counselling.

Local media said only around 200 people were on the school grounds, fewer than normal because of exam times.

In a separate incident on Thursday, police in the eastern city of Leipzig said they had detained a 21-year-old student still at secondary school after being tipped off by Snapchat that he had posted pictures of himself with a gun and made unspecified threats.

The US social media platform alerted German authorities, prompting Leipzig police to take action.

 A police spokesman said that the 21-year-old did not pose a real threat, however, and only possessed an airsoft gun, a replica firearm that uses non-lethal, usually plastic, pellets.

‘Strict gun laws’

School shootings are relatively rare in Germany, a country with some of the strictest gun laws in Europe. But a recent spate has rattled the population.

Last week, investigators in Germany’s city of Essen said they foiled a school bomb assault, as they arrested a 16-year-old who is suspected to have been planning a “Nazi terror attack”.

Police in Essen stormed the teen’s room overnight, taking him into custody and uncovering 16 “pipe bombs”, as well as anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim material.

In January, an 18-year-old student opened fire in a lecture hall at Heidelberg University in southwestern Germany, killing a young woman and
injuring three others before fleeing the scene and turning the weapon on himself.

In 2009, a former pupil killed nine students, three teachers and three passers-by in a school shooting at Winnenden, in the German state of Baden-Württemberg. The gunman then killed himself.

In 2002, a 19-year-old former student, apparently in revenge for having been expelled, shot dead 16 people including 12 teachers and two students at a school in the central German city of Erfurt. He too then killed himself.

The Winnenden and Erfurt massacres were carried out with legal weapons and spurred Germany to tighten gun laws.

The country currently requires anyone under 25 to pass a psychiatric exam before applying for a gun licence.

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