German Interior Ministry says ultra-right terrorisim responsible for murders of migrants
The murders of small business owners from Greece and Turkey committed in Germany between 2000 and 2006 have been solved and revealed some surprising information: The crimes were committed by a group of ultra-right radicals. According to German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich, all indications are that the murders represent a new form of ultra-right terrorism.
The murder spree became known to the public as the "döner murders", a reference to the fact that the victims were most frequently running döner kebab shops. The crimes, for which motives could never be established, are now revealed to have been a series of neo-Nazi, xenophobically motivated murders.
The crimes were linked by an identical "modus operandi", that of shooting the victim in the head in broad daylight. The perpetrators then vanished without leaving any usable clues behind. A completely identical modus operandi was identified for an incident on 25 April 2007 in Heilbronn in which a 22-year-old female police officer was shot in the head in a field where a local festival was taking place. Her 24-year-old colleague was also critically injured and fought for his life for several weeks.
The police investigation into these murders eventually began to close in around three main suspects, two men and a woman. Both men subsequently committed suicide in a residential vehicle in Eisenach. A warrant was issued for their accomplice, 36-year-old Beata Z., who later turned herself in to police. A search of her home turned up the 7.65 mm ČZ pistol which had been used to commit the murders of the immigrants. The pistol is of Czech manufacture. Detectives recognized this at the start of the investigation but their collaboration with their Czech colleagues did not move the solution of the case forward.
Last week a 37-year-old man was arrested near Hannover on suspicion of having been an accomplice of this recently-discovered three-member group of alleged robbers and murderers with a "brown-shirt background". The arrested man, Holger T., had been a member of the ultra-right group "National Socialist Underground" (Nationalsozialistischer Untergrund - NSU), as had the three perpetrators. He had been in contact with the three since the 1990s and had loaned them residential vehicles registered in his name which the three used to commit their crimes and then disappear. He later also let them use his driver's license and passport.
The alleged perpetrators were known to have been in contact with neo-Nazi circles since the 1990s. Police officers have now found ultra-right propaganda videos in the homes of the murder suspects that reference both the NSU group and the "döner murders".
The 2007 murder in Heilbronn of the female police officer and the injury of her colleague seemed to be on the brink of being solved in 2009 through a slight trace of DNA police had found at the crime scene. The DNA, identified as that of a woman, was then found to have been present at 32 other crime scenes not only in Germany, but also in Austria and France. It later proved to be a false clue due to an error in the collection and evaluation of DNA samples from the various crime scenes. The swabs used by detectives in all three countries to collect evidence had not been absolutely sterile, but had contained traces of the DNA of a woman involved in their production. It was later proven that a female worker in the company manufacturing the swabs had not sufficiently followed the rules for working in a sterile environment and her DNA had remained on the cotton. Police therefore lost what they had believed to be a clue leading to the perpetrator and the crime was not solved until now.
All still-unsolved crimes in Thuringia, where the group was primarily active, will be reopened to see whether the evidence might also point to the suspected perpetrators of the "döner murders". The first results of the new investigations can be expected next week.
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