Tag Archives: Crime

The girl in the box: the mysterious crime that shocked Germany

In the Alpine foothills in the far south of Germany is a vast lake called the Ammersee. Its shores are dotted with centuries-old villages where wealthy families from Munich buy large second homes and tourists drink beer at waterfront restaurants. At the north end of the lake is a pair of such villages, Eching am Ammersee and Schondorf, less than two miles apart. Separating them is a block of spruce forest that attracts hunters, joggers, mountain bikers and in the late summer 38 years ago, kidnappers preparing to commit what would become one of the country’s most notorious postwar crimes.

After class on Tuesday 15 September 1981, the first day of the new school year, a 10-year-old girl named Ursula Herrmann returned to her house in Eching. Ursula, the youngest of four siblings, practised piano with her oldest brother Michael, and then headed off to her late afternoon gymnastics lesson in Schondorf, cycling through the forest along the lakeside path. When the gym class was over, she went to her cousin’s house in Schondorf, where she ate dinner. At 7.20pm, Ursula’s mother phoned the aunt to say her daughter needed to come home. The shadows were lengthening but it was still light, and the cycle ride would only take 10 minutes.

Half an hour later, she was still not home. Her mother again called the aunt, who said Ursula had left 25 minutes before. Both of them immediately knew something was wrong. Ursula’s father rushed into the forest from Eching, and her uncle did the same from Schondorf. They met in the middle, along the path. Ursula’s name rang out through the darkening wood. But there was no reply.

Within an hour neighbours, police and firemen had joined the search, torch beams raking the water and struggling to penetrate the thick undergrowth. With midnight approaching, and rain falling, a sniffer dog led its handler away from the lake, into the brush. There, 20 metres from the path, was Ursula’s little red bike. But she was nowhere to be seen.

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Posted by on November 15, 2019 in European Union


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The cult of Columbine: how an obsession with school shooters led to a murder plot

It was an extremely online romance, as many were in 2014: they followed each other on Tumblr, then they became Facebook friends, then they started chatting. James Gamble was 19, aimless and unemployed. Lindsay Souvannarath was 22, with a newly minted degree from a small liberal arts school in Iowa and vague plans to join the Peace Corps.

Over the next seven weeks, Lindsay and James would come to feel that their meeting was part of some great cosmic plan. They were in similar places in their lives: young adults still living with their parents, socially awkward, virgins. They did not spend much time talking about the mundane building blocks of adulthood – school, family, work – in part because those parts of life had felt hostile to both of them for a long time. Instead, they discussed the other things they had in common – how they both walked stiffly and too fast; how as soon as they entered a room, other people could sense that something about them did not quite fit. How they could tell that strangers were afraid of them. How they had grown to like it, in a way, the perverse kind of power that came from being the kind of person everyone else wanted to stay away from.

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Posted by on October 10, 2019 in Reportages


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‘I Heard Their Screams, and Then They Were Gone’

Eight men from Africa step in front of the prison gate. It is a dark night and they look around expectantly. It is their first step into freedom, a moment for which they have been waiting for quite some time – the end of a journey during which they have faced more than human beings can bear: crossing the desert,the war in Libya, fleeing across the sea, people drowning, and then two years locked away in this high-security prison near Palermo, Sicily.

But now they are free, eight young men around 20 years of age, with narrow faces and thin beards, released after a judge handed down his verdict on this dark morning. And yet the feelings they had on the high seas are still with them, the feeling of being hunted and in danger, the inability to discern between good and bad. They have lost all sense of orientation. With their belongings – sneakers, jeans and some notebooks – stuffed into trash bags thrown over their shoulders, they glance up at the moon and then start walking toward a brighter patch in the sky, assuming the light comes from the city.

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Posted by on January 13, 2018 in Uncategorized


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‘We believe you harmed your child’: the war over shaken baby convictions

At first, Craig Stillwell and Carla Andrews only vaguely registered the change at the hospital; how the expressions of warm, calm concern in the doctors and nurses who had been helping them look after their sick baby had iced over. It was 15 August 2016, in the early hours of the morning, and their three-month-old daughter, Effie, was fighting for life.

Two hours earlier, Effie had woken up screaming. Her parents, both 23, had no permanent home and were staying at Craig’s father’s place in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire. They had all been asleep on the floor in the lounge: Effie in the travel cot that detached from her pram, Craig still in the uniform he wore as a grass cutter. Carla thought the problem was acid reflux. She passed the baby to Craig and went to prepare a bottle of formula in the kitchen. As she worked, Effie screamed and screamed in the other room. Suddenly she fell silent. Carla heard Craig panic: “Effie! Effie!” She rushed in. Craig, terrified, was holding the child. Effie was white-faced, limbs floppy, eyes fixed, gasping weakly for air.

Paramedics arrived at 3.19am, by which time Effie appeared dead. They reached Stoke Mandeville hospital at 3.50am. She roused a little and was taken for a brain scan. Afterwards, in the resuscitation unit, a doctor told them what they had found. Effie had suffered a bleed on the brain, and it didn’t look like it had been the first. Carla and Craig both started crying.

“But how could this happen?” asked Craig.

“We’re going to look into it,” the doctor replied.

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Posted by on January 9, 2018 in Reportages


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Louis Theroux on Charles Manson

When we heard the news of Charles Manson’s death, we asked Louis Theroux if we could reprint this piece he wrote for Idler #1 in August 1993. In it Louis examines transcripts of Manson’s parole hearing from 1992.

Every few years since 1977, Charles Manson has appeared before the California board of prison terms and been considered for parole. And every few years Manson has been returned to prison. Looking over the transcripts of his latest hearing, dated April 1992, it isn’t hard to see why.

Manson gets off to a shaky start when the various board commissioners are spelling their names for the benefit of the transcriber.

Presiding Board Commissioner Koenig: Mr Manson?

Inmate Manson: Charles Manson, inmate, B-33920.

Koenig: Would you spell your last name please?

Manson: M-A-N-S-U-N.

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Posted by on November 24, 2017 in Uncategorized


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Watch “Manson family documentary 1972” on YouTube

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Posted by on November 20, 2017 in Uncategorized


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About the Paradise Papers Investigation

The Paradise Papers is a global investigation into the offshore activities of some of the world’s most powerful people and companies.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and 95 media partners explored 13.4 million leaked files from a combination of offshore service providers and the company registries of some of the world’s most secretive countries.

The files were obtained by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung.

The Paradise Papers documents include nearly 7 million loan agreements, financial statements, emails, trust deeds and other paperwork from nearly 50 years at Appleby, a leading offshore law firm with offices in Bermuda and beyond.

The documents also include files from a smaller, family-owned trust company, Asiaciti, and from company registries in 19 secrecy jurisdictions. The records range from complex, 100-page corporate transaction sheets and dollar-by-dollar payment ledgers to simple corporate registries of countries, such as Antigua & Barbuda, that do not publicly list names of company shareholders or directors.

As a whole, the Paradise Papers files expose offshore holdings of political leaders and their financiers as well as household-name companies that slash taxes through transactions conducted in secret. Financial deals of billionaires and celebrities are also revealed in the documents.

The Paradise Papers files include far more information about U.S. citizens, residents and companies than previous ICIJ investigations – at least 31,000 of them.

ICIJ collaborated with more than 380 journalists working on six continents in 30 languages. Many team members spent a year using online platforms to communicate and to share documents. Journalists tracked down court records, obtained financial disclosures of politicians in Africa, Europe, and Latin and North America, filed freedom of information requests and conducted hundreds of interviews with tax experts, policymakers and industry insiders.

Special thanks go to the the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting for supporting visual elements of the project, and Neo4j for database support.

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Posted by on November 7, 2017 in Economy


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Charles Manson: The Incredible Story of the Most Dangerous Man Alive

Three young girls dance down the hallway of the Superior Court Building in Los Angeles, holding hands and singing one of Charlie’s songs. They might be on their way to a birthday party in their short, crisp cotton dresses, but, actually they are attending a preliminary hearing to a murder trial.

A middle-aged lady in Bel Air wants to “mother” Charlie, and two little girls send a letter to him in jail.

“At first we thought you were guilty. But then we read in the papers about these kids who were stabbed to death in the same way as the Sharon Tate murders. We knew you hadn’t done it because you were in jail at the time. We knew you hadn’t done it anyway when we saw your face in the newspaper. . . .

“Love . . . ”

Charlie gets letters from little girls every day. They come from New Hampshire, Minnesota, Los Angeles. A convicted bank robber who met Charlie in jail writes “The Gospel According to Pawnee Fred, the Thief on the Other Cross,” in which he asks:

“Is Manson Son of Man?”

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Posted by on July 23, 2016 in North America, Reportages


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Why did two parents murder their adopted child?

One day in late June 2001, Rosario Porto, a petite, dark-haired lawyer from Santiago de Compostela, northern Spain, sat nervously on a flight to China beside her husband Alfonso Basterra, a quiet man from the Basque country, who worked as a freelance journalist. The couple, both in their mid-30s, were on their way to adopt a baby girl. Porto swallowed two tablets of Orfidal – a common anti-anxiety medicine that she had used before then – but remained too agitated and excited to sleep.

The couple had had no trouble persuading local Spanish authorities that they would make good parents and that their child would be surrounded by a loving extended family. Porto’s father was a lawyer who had been honorary consul for France in Santiago, and her mother was a university lecturer in history of art. They had given their daughter a flat that occupied a whole floor of a four-storey block in what some call Santiago’s “VIP zone”, home to the city’s upper middle class. The flat was decorated in the bold tones – blues, greens and yellows – that Porto liked, and full of art, curiosities and colourful rugs from around the world. The child’s bedroom would have wallpaper covered in clouds and suns.

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Posted by on February 6, 2016 in Reportages


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An Unbelievable Story of Rape

An 18-year-old said she was attacked at knifepoint. Then she said she made it up. That’s where our story begins.

No one came to court with her that day, except her public defender.

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Posted by on December 22, 2015 in Reportages


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