Bergisch Gladbach abuse complex: Hundreds of suspects identified

Status: 01/12/2022 1:36 p.m.

Your work is an enormous psychological burden – up to 350 investigators have viewed huge amounts of videos and photos with scenes of abuse. The investigation team into the Bergisch Gladbach abuse complex is now being disbanded.

26 months after it was founded, the “Berg Ermittlungsgruppe Berg” in Cologne’s police headquarters took stock. It was founded after a 43-year-old cook was arrested in Bergisch Gladbach for the sexual abuse of his daughter in October 2019. The investigators came across a gigantic network of predominantly men who have committed serious sexual violence to children.

Assessment of the investigation group “Berg” on the abuse complex Bergisch Gladbach

Susanna Zdrzalek, WDR, daily news 12:00 p.m., January 12, 2022

During the weddings, up to 350 investigators worked to solve the most serious sexual violence against children. The 43-year-old chef from Bergisch Gladbach had countless chat messages and terrabyte WhatsApp messages with videos and photos on his mobile phone – on his main mobile phone alone, 130,000 photos and 12,000 video files.

Perpetrators acted carelessly

That brought insights into a scene that nobody expected in terms of scope. The perpetrators sent each other videos with drastic scenes of abuse. Some even exchanged victims among themselves in real life. Hardly anyone bothered to hide their own actions online. Apparently very few expected investigations. They were all the more surprised when the police intervened.

Tremendous psychological stress

To date, the officers have identified 439 suspected sex offenders. Cologne’s police chief Uwe Jakob says the psychological demands were extraordinarily difficult. Not all of them would have withstood the pressure: “For me personally, it is particularly bad that three of them have probably become permanently ill – because of the bad things they had to experience,” said Jakob.

The investigation team included a father of three children. He stayed on the investigation team because quitting was out of the question for him: “I saw the need to continue working with all my efforts. I wanted to invest all my energy in freeing a child again and again and arresting another perpetrator.”

Police President: “Procedure with new dimensions”

65 victims were freed from the hands of their tormentors. Numerous criminal proceedings have already been concluded and ended with long prison sentences – not infrequently with subsequent preventive detention.

Nobody from the investigation team would have expected such a resounding success in late autumn 2019. But hardly anyone with the enormous psychological stress that the investigators were under. Today the “Mountain Investigation Group” is disbanded. It has also changed the police, says Cologne’s police chief Uwe Jacob. The process developed previously unknown dimensions: “We have pulled out all the stops that are legally and tactically possible.” This has never happened in this form – at least in Germany – before.

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