A little girl is kidnapped, locked in a box and buried. Even after more than 40 years, the crime against Ursula Herrmann is still stunned. A new TV movie raises new questions.
Augsburg – The grisly death of little Ursula Herrmann near Lake Ammer has been causing speculation and dismay among the population for more than four decades. Many years after the student’s death, a suspect was arrested and convicted, but to this day there are many doubts as to whether the right person is actually in prison or whether there were at least accomplices who were never caught.
From November 3rd, an elaborate documentary on the case from Bavaria, which is one of the most spectacular criminal cases in the Federal Republic, can be seen on the pay-TV channel Sky and the streaming service Wow. The one and a half hour film “The Girl in the Box: Who Killed Ursula Herrmann?” tells the story again from the beginning and also fuels speculation about the perpetrators.
The documentary is largely supported by Ursula’s brother Michael Herrmann, who has been fighting for further investigations for many years. “If there are lies, then I would also like to be there to expose them,” he says in the television report. He also doubts that the real perpetrator is locked up.
Mysterious DNA trail and clues that have never been solved
The film sheds light on many of the aspects that have been fueling criticism of the work of the criminal police for many years, such as a mysterious DNA trace and other clues that have never been solved. A new report on a tape recorder, which once played a major role in the conviction of the incarcerated convict, is also presented. But ultimately, after the new TV film, it is still very questionable whether there will ever be another major investigation into the Herrmann case.
The crime story goes back to September 15, 1981. At that time, the ten-year-old was cycling through a forest near her home town of Eching am Ammersee. A perpetrator rips the child off the bike and locks it in a box, which he buries. In it, the girl dies after a short time because the ventilation system does not work. A ransom of two million Deutschmarks is demanded from the parents, although Ursula has long been dead.
Weeks later, the buried box containing Ursula’s body is discovered, but the investigation is overshadowed by mishaps. Even securing evidence at the scene of the crime turns into a fiasco, and the investigating senior public prosecutor will later speak of a “scene destruction squad”. It ultimately took until 2008 for the violent crime to be considered solved.
The suspect has maintained his innocence to this day
At that time, a suspect who once lived in the neighborhood of the Herrmann family was arrested in the holiday resort of Kappeln an der Schlei in Schleswig-Holstein. The accused has maintained his innocence to this day, but he was convicted in a lengthy circumstantial process in Augsburg. The defendant was sentenced to life imprisonment for aggravated extortion of kidnapping resulting in death.
A main indication was an old tape recorder seized from the convict, which is said to have been used for the extortion calls at the time. In the Sky documentary, a report from the University of Zurich is presented, according to which this device is unlikely to be used as a crime tool.
For defense attorney Walter Rubach, this is another piece of the puzzle for proving his client’s innocence. Rubach has been collecting arguments for a retrial for many years. However, the lawyer also emphasizes that in Germany it is “hellishly difficult” to finally implement a new process to correct a final judgment.
Even if the tape recorder would probably be the focus of Rubach’s application for reinstatement, he fears that the Zurich institute’s statement will “not get us very far”. However, there are others who are certain that the coil device was not used for the kidnapping. “We’re still sitting there,” says Rubach.
New investigative approaches?
For the Augsburg public prosecutor’s office, none of this has so far shaken the verdict. “We do not take part in speculation,” says senior public prosecutor Andreas Dobler. Most recently, the prosecution examined an alleged letter of confession. There was nothing in the letter, Dobler emphasized that the author could not be identified. The prosecution does not see any significant new investigation approaches.
Irrespective of a retrial, the convicted perpetrator can hope for freedom. In the coming year he can apply for parole because he has served the minimum term of 15 years. One can have hope that he will come out, says his lawyer Rubach. “He’s old, he’s sick, there’s a report that says he’s no longer dangerous.” dpa