German Police have arrested a suspect, an Afghan teenage refugee, in a high profile sexual assault and murder case that has kept the residents of Freiburg, Germany in suspense for months.
A medical student officially identified only as Maria L., 19, was raped and allegedly drowned on the night of October 16, when she was returning to her residence hall from a student party by bicycle. Her body was found the next morning by locals on the bank of the Dreisam River in Freiburg, home of one of Germany’s elite universities.
The case sparked massive public outcry, prompting police to form a special group consisting of about 40 investigative officers and forensic specialists. After an investigation that lasted for more than a month, police finally arrested the alleged murderer and rapist on Friday.
“The suspect is a minor, 17, from Afghanistan, who came to Germany in 2015,” Dieter Inhofer, the regional chief prosecutor, said at a press conference following the arrest.
A single strand of black hair partially dyed blonde, a scarf found on the riverbed, and several DNA samples found on the victim’s body and at the crime scene led investigators to the suspect, police revealed during the press conference.
“We were able to speak to the foster family,” David Mueller, head of the special investigative group, told journalists, but refused to reveal the nature of the conversation. “The suspect still refuses to testify,” he added.
The suspect was charged with sexual assault and murder, police said during the press conference, adding that it is yet unknown whether he deliberately drowned the victim or threw the woman in the water while she was unconscious.
“The death occurred due to drowning,” Mueller said, stressing that it is the only fact confirmed so far regarding the victim’s death.
It was also confirmed that the suspect entered Germany illegally and later filed an asylum request as an unaccompanied minor. He then lived with a foster family in Freiburg. He had been charged once before with inflicting bodily harm, but the case was later dropped, police told journalists during the press conference without giving further details.
It is yet unclear if the suspect and the victim had known each other before the incident, or if the attack was planned in advance.
Police also mentioned a similar incident in the nearby town of Endigen, just 30 kilometers from Freiburg, where a woman, 27, was also raped and murdered weeks after Maria L.’s death. No links between the two cases have been found, though a connection might still be investigated, Inhofer said.
“We will have no rest. We will thoroughly examine every lead and will look under every rock – many times, if needed,”Bernhard Rotzinger, head of the Freiburg Police Department, said on Friday.
Meanwhile, the news has provoked outrage on social media, where people once again blamed German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open-door policy for what happened in Freiburg.
“Angela Merkel, look here! Blood of this person is on your hands!” a Twitter user wrote in a post featuring a photo of the victim.
— Cassandra (@cassandralipsia) 3 декабря 2016 г.
— Onlinemagazin (@OnlineMagazin) 3 декабря 2016 г.
Journalist and author Oliver Janich said he discovered that the murder victim was Maria Ladenburger, daughter of Clemens Ladenburger, who has been an assistant to the Director-General of the European Commission’s Legal Service since 2008.
Janich also established that the victim had worked as a volunteer in one of the local refugee shelters in her spare time.
Ladenburger and his wife Friederike have since placed a memorial notice for their daughter in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
Germany sustained a massive influx of approximately 900,000 refugees last year, with up to 300,000 expected to arrive this year, according to Frank-Jurgen Weise, head of the country’s migration agency BAMF.
A total of 21,000 rejected asylum-seekers were repatriated in 2015, and an additional 35,000 in the first seven months of 2016, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said at a cabinet meeting in August.
In late November, Merkel announced that up to 100,000 rejected asylum-seekers would be returned from Germany to their home countries by the end of the year.