Experienced child pornography investigators who thought they saw everything horrible were wrong. Cologne investigators say the new “Wermelskirchen” abuse complex has reached a new dimension of cruelty.
According to the investigators, the new abuse complex in Wermelskirchen has a dimension of brutality that exceeds that of other complexes. The main suspect is a 44-year-old from Wermelskirchen in North Rhine-Westphalia.
The childless and married employee offered his services as a babysitter on the Internet and was thus able to approach his victims, the investigators reported on Monday in Cologne. He also exchanged child pornographic images and videos of “unimaginable brutality” with dozens of other men.
“I am shocked and stunned. I have never encountered such a degree of inhuman brutality and callous indifference towards small children, their pain and their screams,” said Cologne Police Commissioner Falk Schnabel.
At least 73 suspects and 33 victims
So far, 73 suspects and 33 victims have been identified, the investigators reported. The youngest child was one month old. Among the victims are five infants and children with disabilities. Huge amounts of data – a volume of 32 terabytes – with 3.5 million pictures and 1.5 million videos were secured.
The violent fantasies that were realized in the process shocked even experienced investigators in the area. “The most brutal rapes of babies and small children” were found. There is evidence that in some cases the children were drugged for this. It is possible that the number of victims of abuse will continue to increase. So far, only ten percent of the data volume has been evaluated.
“Please spare me the descriptions of what I saw,” said senior public prosecutor Joachim Roth, visibly distressed. “What I saw shook me to the core.”
Some victims were unaware of the abuse
Nevertheless, the parents of the children never became suspicious, the investigators reported. Some victims were also completely surprised by the news from the police that they had been victims of the most severe abuse years ago when they were small children. You have been offered help.
The babysitter, who has no criminal record, is said to have abused twelve children himself – ten boys and two girls – in the greater Cologne area. The crimes date back to 2005.
In order to get access to the 44-year-old’s unencrypted data, special forces overpowered him last December while the computer was switched on during a video conference with work colleagues.
They in turn dialed the emergency number 110 because they believed they were witnessing a robbery. It then took 17 days to back up the entire amount of data from 232 data carriers on site.
A special “structural organization” called “List” now sifts through the enormous amounts of data. The name is due to the fact that the suspect divided his child pornography archive into lists – probably in order not to lose track. He has largely admitted the crimes.
Herbert Reul: “We’ll get you!”
The 44-year-old “watched one of the perpetrators from Münster abuse and gave instructions,” reported NRW Interior Minister Herbert Reul (CDU) in Düsseldorf. “This happened via video chat online.” He also kept a record of the inclinations of the other pedophiles. However, he does not currently know why he had not already been identified during the investigations in the Münster complex.
“I can only say to all pedophiles: We’ll get you! Maybe not today, but one day we’ll be at your door. Lügde, Bergisch Gladbach, Münster and now Wermelskirchen,” said Reul. He added: “You can sometimes lose faith in humanity in doing these things.”
In the “heute journal update” on Tuesday night, Reul said: “We need more technological help and we also need a legal framework. Sometimes I despair when I see how difficult it is for us to deal with the issue of data protection.” It can’t be that an investigator says he has the IP address, he has the guy, but he doesn’t know his name and where he lives. “Something has to change in the right to data storage.”
The Cologne investigators said that it is currently being checked whether the 44-year-old can be taken into preventive detention. A psychiatric report was also commissioned. The remaining suspects are fathers, neighbors, acquaintances, brothers or grandfathers of the victims.
The focus is on NRW with 26 procedures, followed by Thuringia (6), Brandenburg (5), Schleswig-Holstein (5) and Lower Saxony (5). With the exception of Bremen and Saarland, all other federal states are also affected. A procedure had been handed over to Austria.
Most suspects are between the ages of 26 and 45. The Wermelskirchener was caught on last November by investigating one of his chat partners in Berlin. His phones were tapped until he was issued with an arrest warrant from the Cologne district court.