German police widen nursery ‘murder’ probe as other cases emerge

German police investigating the death of a child at a kindergarten said Thursday they were widening a probe against a teacher after similar near-fatal incidents were uncovered at her previous workplaces.

German police widen nursery 'murder' probe as other cases emerge
A stone with the words 'you are always in our hearts' outside the Kita in Viersen. Photo: DPA

A 25-year-old teacher at the kindergarten in the western town of Viersen near Düsseldorf in North Rhine-Westphalia was arrested on suspicion of murder after three-year-old Greta died from respiratory failure on May 4th.

Lead investigator Guido Rosskamp said the probe into three other kindergartens where the 25-year-old had worked found “to their horror that there were similar incidents” at each of the facilities.

Asked about the suspect, her previous employers or colleagues have wondered “why such a person who lacks empathy with children would want to take on such a job,” added the investigator.

A first assault may have been committed in November 2017 against a three-year-old boy, said investigators.

The suspect had informed her colleagues then that there was something wrong with the child.

In that case and other incidents, the children were found unconscious, with first-aid workers reporting that their eyes were already rolled upwards, investigators said.

Separately, criminal police had also had the suspect on their file as she had in May 2019 falsely accused a man of inflicting cuts on her face with a knife.

A forensic specialist had found subsequently that the suspect was responsible for the injuries, leading the authorities to recommend psychiatric help for her.

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German police under fire for using tracing app to find witnesses

German police drew criticism Tuesday for using an app to trace contacts from bars and restaurants in the fight against the pandemic as part of an investigation.

A barcode used for the Luca check-in app to trace possible Covid contacts at a Stuttgart restaurant.
A barcode used for the Luca check-in app to trace possible Covid contacts at a Stuttgart restaurant. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Marijan Murat

The case stemming from November last year began after the fatal fall of a man while leaving a restaurant in the western city of Mainz.

Police seeking possible witnesses made use of data from an app known as Luca, which was designed for patrons to register time spent in restaurants and taverns to track the possible spread of coronavirus.

Luca records the length of time spent at an establishment along with the patron’s full name, address and telephone number – all subject to Germany’s strict data protection laws.

However the police and local prosecutors in the case in Mainz successfully appealed to the municipal health authorities to gain access to information about 21 people who visited the restaurant at the same time as the man who died.

After an outcry, prosecutors apologised to the people involved and the local data protection authority has opened an inquiry into the affair.

“We condemn the abuse of Luca data collected to protect against infections,” said the company that developed the Luca app, culture4life, in a statement.

It added that it had received frequent requests for its data from the authorities which it routinely rejected.

Konstantin von Notz, a senior politician from the Greens, junior partners in the federal coalition, warned that abuse of the app could undermine public trust.

“We must not allow faith in digital apps, which are an important tool in the fight against Covid-19, to disappear,” he told Tuesday’s edition of Handelsblatt business daily.