“With begging eyes”: Ursula Herrmann’s 40-Year Criminal Case

Few of the crimes moved people in post-war Germany as much as the kidnapping and death of little Ursula Herrmann. A ten-year-old girl was kidnapped on September 15, 1981 by Lake Ammer and locked in a buried box – the girl suffocated. To this day, many doubt that the real perpetrator has been convicted – even Ursula’s brother. And after 40 years, the case is still busy with lawyers. A preliminary investigation is underway at the Augsburg prosecutor’s office.

New claim letter pending investigation

In November 2020, a new “Confession Letter” appeared. Since then, the prosecutor’s office has been examining the letter. Investigators assume that the letter was not written by the alleged author himself. Rather, it is suspected that an unknown person is trying to slander someone.

The document will continue to be assessed and checked for traces. “These forensic investigations sometimes take longer,” explains senior prosecutor Andreas Dobler. This is not complete yet, the author of the letter has not yet been found.

The hijackers demanded a ransom of two million marks

Meanwhile, it is the 40th anniversary of the kidnapping. On the way home, the child was kidnapped in Eching. The student’s bicycle was found, but Ursula disappeared without a trace. The parents received an extortion call and a ransom-demand letter of two million marks.

A girl strangled in a dungeon of earth

In fact, Urszula was long dead, her dungeon had no air supply, and the girl had no chance of surviving. On October 4, 1981, a buried box containing a body was discovered.

20,000 fingerprints compared

The Bavarian State Criminal Police Office (LKA) classifies Ursula’s kidnapping as one of the most spectacular crimes committed by criminal authorities. The LKA website recalls that 5,000 clues were processed and 20,000 fingerprints were compared. But police investigations were also overshadowed by mishaps during this time, and the perpetrator was initially not caught.

Eduard Zimmermann: These eyes are following me

Television investigator Eduard Zimmermann also tried several times to find the hijacker on his popular ZDF show “Aktenzeichen XY … unsolved”. The late TV presenter said he was moved by the images of a child locked in a box and strangled there. The deceased Ursula looked at him with “begging eyes”. “Those eyes have followed me ever since,” Zimmermann said two decades after the crime.

Doubts as to whether the right person is in prison

But it wasn’t until 2008 in Kappeln, Schleswig-Holstein, that a man was arrested and later sentenced to life imprisonment in Augsburg. The 71-year-old continues to deny that he was the perpetrator. The references to possible partners are also unclear. To this day, there are doubts as to whether the right person is in prison.

Murder or Extortion with Fatal?

But there will likely be no new criminal case for the 1981 crime, even if the prosecution finds a new perpetrator. According to the prosecutor’s office, the act is time-barred. The crime is classified as forced abduction resulting in death, not murder for which there is no statute of limitations.

The attorney Joachim Feller, who represents Ursula’s brother, envisions the case being classified as a murder and renegotiating it according to the new jurisprudence. Feller also does not rule out that a mysterious “confession letter” may provide new clues. Because it can contain “the perpetrator’s knowledge” – he emphasizes. “There are details there that have never been in the media.”

An offense in the Pain and Suffering Redress procedure was not successfully investigated

Brother Michael Herrmann also has doubts about the version of the crime that was once approved by the criminal chamber of the Augsburg District Court. A few years ago, he initiated pain and suffering compensation proceedings against a convict in prison in the hope that the case would be substantially reopened. This did not happen – and the victim’s brother came to a bitter conclusion: “There are many indications that an innocent person has been in prison for ten years,” he wrote in 2018 in an open letter to the Bavarian judiciary.

“Of course he’s frustrated,” says his lawyer Feller. Much new information has been provided and no new culprit has been found.

Will the prisoner be released in 2023?

Convict lawyer Walter Rubach, on the other hand, has long been trying to find evidence to bring trial. But Rubach has nothing tangible so far, and there’s not much hope in the latest list either. It was probably just an attempt to “get attention.” But his client now has a different view of freedom: “I think he might be out in 2023,” says Rubach.

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