This is part five of a five part investigative series on Bavaria, transnational organized crime, and the Ursula Herrmann case.
One of the most perplexing episodes in this investigation centres around an unassuming length of wire. When the crime scene technicians arrived early in the morning after the discovery of Ursula’s bicycle, they spotted a wire hanging from a tree. A discussion followed as to whether this could be connected to the crime, and a fireman who took part in the search for Ursula said that this part of the forest was used by children as a playground. It was then decided not to secure the wire. The wire then resurfaced sixteen months later at an exclusive boarding school a few hundred meters away, when police visited the school. Two pupils, one twenty and one nineteen years old, stated that they had found the wire in the forest in the spring of 1982, probably some seven months after the abduction. They said that they were following an owl near the crime scene one afternoon, when they spotted the wire hanging from a tree. They then went on to describe how they removed the wire and rolled it up. One of the pupils then kept the wire in a lockable box in his room at the school. When the police visited, they decided to hand it in. They were also happy to provide a statement, and visited the crime scene with the police the following day to show them the exact location.
When they found the wire, either end was hanging down to the ground, and it spanned a considerable distance strung from one tree to the next, almost parallel to the path Ursula had taken. No devices were connected to it, a statement that is also supported by the crime scene technicians who saw it in September 1981. Looking at the location, it could only have served as a signalling device, perhaps with a switch and a buzzer or light bulb connected to it. Did the abductors start to clear up the crime scene and fled once the search had started? If so, there would only have been two very brief windows of opportunity during which they could have done so, the first half hour after the abduction before Ursula’s father and uncle arrived, and then again a brief period of time before the police, the fire brigade, friends and family arrived. The timing would have been tight, given that the box was 800m away. They would have to transport a dead or unconscious child through a system of paths they had cut into the forest, carefully checking for potential witnesses when crossing two forestry paths where they would be completely exposed. They would have to place the child into the box, lock it, pile 5cm of soil on it, plant young trees on top and make their way back. It seems unlikely they would have been able to make it within just half an hour. But perhaps one of the abductors stayed behind at the crime scene to clear up? Or alternatively, perhaps they ran back and arrived shortly before the police.
One of these pupils made a witness statement in the criminal proceedings against Werner Mazurek, in which he described their find again. The matter was all but forgotten until just over a year ago, when some startling new facts came to light. The father of one of the pupils owned a company that developed and produced paint similar to the highly unusual paint found on the outer lid of the box.
Whatever the matter, the removal of the end devices of the bell wire between the time of the abduction at 19:25 and the discovery of the bicycle at 23:19 was not the only activity that happened this night in the forest. At 23:00 an old lady who lived near the edge of the forest on the Schondorf side heard seven shots fired directly one after the other, “like in the war”. This lead remains unresolved. We know that it was not a hunter. Why should someone decide to fire shots in the forest in the dark?
Even stranger still is another witness statement. At 23:30, two witnesses spotted two cars parked on separate locations alongside the forest, one by the highway and one on a parking lot only a few meters from the location of the box. A few moments after the witnesses passed this second car, it suddenly drove away at excessive speed. The witnesses reported the sighting including the number plate of the car to the police, who traced the driver. He provided an explanation for his actions this night. However, the police refused to reveal the identity of the driver and the reason behind his actions to Ursula’s brother, who is entitled to view the case files. We know the make and colour of the car and the number plate, and we know in which village he lived.
The statute of limitations has now expired for all crimes with the exception of murder. While there is no suggestion that the driver of the speeding car was engaged in any illegal activity, except for the speeding, of course, firing shots in the dark without a hunting license may indeed have been in conflict with the law. It is therefore imperative to trace these persons who may have seen something. New insights have come to light and perhaps they witnessed something without realising its significance.
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