This is part four of a five part investigative series on Bavaria, transnational organized crime, and the Ursula Herrmann case.

The crime scene of the Ursula Herrmann abduction is unique in a number of ways, and strongly suggests that more than one person was involved. The path leading through the Weingarten forest along the Ammersee shore was frequently used by cyclists or pedestrians, as it was the fastest connection between the villages of Eching and Schondorf, and because of the beautiful lake scenery. Towards dusk, though, this activity suddenly ceased. The abduction took place precisely at this cut off time, when one could still expect to find a girl on her own, but only a limited number of others. Unlike today, the forest was very thick with undergrowth in many places, for instance at the crime scene, which provided an ideal cover for the abductors.

Ursula’s direction of travel. Path “O” not visible, fir tree on left margin
Entrance to the path that had been cut into the forest, fir tree on left margin

Directly where Ursula was snatched, a path had been cut into the forest. Before the attack, the entrance to this path was concealed by a large fir tree that had been cut off just above the ground. When Ursula approached, one or several of the abductors removed the tree and walked out of the forest onto the main path. We are not certain what happened next, whether Ursula was forced to push her bike into the forest by herself, or whether she was sedated directly on the path. In any case, the abductors would have been visible for some seconds, and would need to make sure that they were not disturbed by passers by. Directly next to the crime scene, the main path takes a turn, and then it continues in an almost straight line until it reaches the first houses of the next village a few hundred meters further on. The abductors installed a wired connection between the crime scene and a lookout who was positioned on the other side of this bend, to signal whether anybody was approaching from the other direction.

Police sketch of the crime scene and the wire.

Directly next to the crime scene were two groups of young fir trees standing closely next to each other. The abductors cut the branches at the inside of these groups of trees so that they could stand in the middle without being seen. They were already there some weeks before the abduction. Presumably, they used these hideouts to observe the traffic on the road. Perhaps they also used it on the day of the abduction, to observe the other end of the path.

Location of the groups of fir trees, paths, bicycle at crime scene.

The paths that had been cut into the forest ultimately led almost all the way to the location of the box. But because of the poor initial crime scene work they were only discovered some months after the abduction. All these factors suggest that at least two, probably three or four people were involved in the abduction. This assumption is also supported by the fact that it would have been very difficult for one person to carry a 65kg box with pipes attached to it to the location where it was buried, which would have involved crawling through dense shrubbery.

Approach to the box, walking from lake shore, ladder found near arrow
Approach to box walking from highway
Entrance to box location
Entrance to box location close up
This ladder was probably used to dig the hole.

But also the box itself seems to have been built by more than one person. Some of the drainage pipes that were once supposed to serve as a ventilation system were drilled more than 2000 times and later wrapped with a bed sheet and duct tape to create a silencer effect. In some locations, these holes are very precisely positioned, in others the work looks somewhat careless, which also suggests that it was done by more than one person.

Holes drilled by two persons

Altogether, this supports the assumption that more than one person was involved. These persons would have been reasonably physically fit as they had to carry a 30kg child through 800m forest terrain. They would also have been fit enough to carry the 65kg box and the supplies, and to dig the hole for the box. They would have had some disposable time in the preceding months and weeks and also experience with DIY, even though not at a professional level. And most importantly, they would have had an intimate knowledge of the Weingarten and the work pattern of the foresters and hunters. Moreover, their mobility would be somewhat restricted on the day of the abduction, since they did not take the victim to another location, as it was done in all other abduction cases at the time.

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This is part four of a five part investigative series on Bavaria, transnational organized crime, and the Ursula Herrmann case.

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