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Germany investigating 30,000 suspects in paedophile probe

Germany is investigating some 30,000 suspects as part of a widening probe into a paedophile network in the western Bergisch Gladbach region, authorities said Monday.

Germany investigating 30,000 suspects in paedophile probe
Photo: DPA

The cyber crime unit in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia is investigating 30,000 unknown suspects” in the case, the justice ministry for Germany's most populous state said in a tweet.

“We want to drag perpetrators and supporters of child abuse out of the anonymity of the internet,” the ministry said.

Those being investigated are suspected of sharing “child and youth pornographic content” including “fictitious and/or real acts of abuse” in anonymous online discussion forums and chat groups, the cyber crime unit ZAC NRW said in a statement.

From July 1st, the North Rhine-Westphalia justice ministry plans to launch a task force in a bid to prosecute paedophiles on the net, as well as cyber terrorists and hackers, reported Spiegel.

“I did not expect, not even remotely, the extent of child abuse on the internet,” North Rhine-Westphalia's justice minister Peter Beisenbach told reporters.

What the investigation team had uncovered was “deeply disturbing”, he said.

“We must recognise that child abuse on the internet is more widespread than we had previously thought.”

The abuse investigations began last October with the arrest of a suspected perpetrator in Bergisch Gladbach, near Cologne.

To date, just over 70 suspects have been identified throughout Germany.

In May, the first offender – a 27-year-old soldier – was sentenced to 10 years in prison and placed in a psychiatric hospital for an indefinite period.

Germany has been left shocked at the discovery of several serious cases of child sex abuse over the past 18 months.

In early June, 11 people were arrested on suspicion of sexually abusing children and filming their actions after videos and photos were seized from the cellar of a 27-year-old man from the western city of Münster, also in North Rhine-Westphalia state.

Investigators said they had identified at least three victims, aged five, 10 and 12 years old.

Officials said then that investigative capacities on child abuse had been increased, which would likely lead to the discovery of more cases.

In an earlier scandal in Lügde, 125 kilometres (80 miles) from Muenster, several men abused children several hundred times at a campsite over a period of several years.

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

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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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