May 22, 2022 4:32 am

65 children freed from horrors of Germany’s largest pedophile ring




It all started with a house search in Bergisch Gladbach in October 2019. The mobile phones and computers that the investigators found in the house of the father of Jörg L. family, a renowned chef, were the gateway to a dark world and difficult to assimilate, the pedophile criminal network largest discovered in Germany to date. At the beginning, the Cologne police assigned 30 agents who would be exclusively dedicated to the case, thinking then that it was a great deployment. But in view of the large amount of data and chat logs that had to be evaluated, it soon became clear that it was too little.

The dimensions of the case led to the creation of a specialized unit BAO Berg with responsibility at the national level.

BAO stands for ‘special organizational structure’, a large team of investigators with a specific command structure that the police often use only for hostage-taking or terrorist attacks. This unit is now dissolved, 26 months later, after the presentation of the final report on the case. “It was the longest BAO in history,” says Cologne Police Chief Uwe Jacob, “with up to 347 assigned police officers and nine prosecutors working all over the country.

The balance of his investigations allows us to peer into the darkest of the pits of human filth: a total of 65 children During these three years they have been identified and freed from the situations of systematic abuse to which they were subjected by a network of pedophiles whose objective was profit. The children are between 1 and 17 years old. The youngest victim was just three months old when she was raped on camera to sell the video over the internet. “I have seen a lot of suffering in more than 40 years of service,” says Jacob, “but what we have discovered here breaks all standards. Despite the success figures, I assure you that there is no reason to celebrate anything.

He regularly raped his daughter

Some images reported by an internet user led the police to Jörg L.’s detached house, which would end up being one of the most prominent figures in the network and who was sentenced to twelve years in prison in 2020 by the Cologne Regional Court. The criminal court found it proven that Jörg L. regularly raped his own e only daughter, victim of “severe abuse” since the three months to three years of age, moment of release. He photographed or filmed most of the crimes on his phone and passed the recordings on to like-minded chat partners. The first assault of which there is documentary evidence dates from July 23, 2018. The girl was at that time one year and three months old and had just learned to walk.

On several occasions, Jörg L. had taken his daughter with him to meetings with fellow condemned chat partner Bastian S. from Kamp-Lintfort. The two men had met at a spa, the Sea Life leisure complex, or for a barbecue, to which Jörg L. also brought his daughter, always in the absence of the mother. He took countless photos and videos of the attacks that were later distributed in chats of up to 1,800 participants. Police found massive amounts of child pornography originating from the activity of this man, who is now 44 years old. It took almost 90 minutes to read the indictment on the first day of the trial. Much of the process, which included his confession, the testimony of his wife and the testimony of the psychiatric expert, was carried out behind closed doors to protect the girl’s privacy. Jörg L.’s lawyer alleged that the defendant had planned to enter 50.000 euros into a bank account in his daughter’s name as “damage repair.” When the psychiatrist expert asked him what damage he believed he had caused, he replied: “My wife’s and daughter’s lives are screwed up.”

The trial has also established that the trained cook and hospitality specialist was the central figure in the Bergisch Gladbach abuse complex, because it was he who established the innumerable digital contacts with other men that gave rise to the network. Police have identified 439 suspects and the judiciary has issued its first 13 convictions, but investigations will take years to complete. There are still 30,000 traces of suspects, crime scenes and victims who could not be identified.

Closest family environment

“We have identified suspects from all walks of life,” explains the head of the investigation group Michael Esser, “people who made a good living and highly educated people, as well as humble people.” In most cases, the suspects acted in the closest family environment. They include several women against whom, however, it has not yet been possible to press charges. 27 arrests have been made throughout Germany, 13 of them in North Rhine-Westphalia, and many cases have been handed over to police officers from other countries, in the USA, Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands and Switzerland. According to Chief Prosecutor Markus Hartmann, head of the North Rhine-Westphalia Cybercrime Central, a total of more than 80 years in prison have already been imposed, two defendants died before their trial could take place and there are still pending proceedings. The summary of the operation shows that “the sexual abuse of children occurs in the middle of our society, it remains among us”, concludes Jacob, “and if you want me to be honest and despite the magnitude of the operation, I do not think that we have achieved a great dissuasion with this investigation ”.

The BAO Berg has confiscated almost 4,800 data carriers in family homes over the course of these months. In one case, the data devices were hidden behind the kitchen counter. The total amount of data seized cannot be quantified: more than 133,000 photos and almost 1,400 videos were stored on a single mobile phone. Following the dissolution of the BAO, many traces that are still open are being followed by a specialized permanent investigation team.

BAO Berg boss Michael Esser says his employees have often reached their limits. “Everyone has seen and heard tremendous suffering,” he laments, “the Cologne team alone has worked a total of approximately 183,000 hours. Those who held an important key position in the team accumulated up to 1,000 overtime hours and I assure you that each of those hours has left a great weight on their souls. Cooperation with this team has always taken place on a voluntary basis. Anyone who couldn’t cope with the viewing of thousands of photos and videos of child sexual abuse could leave the investigation team the same day they applied.

“Three colleagues couldn’t take it anymore,” Esser recalls, “and all of us have received psychological support.” In his case, he remembers with special pain the case of a girl, victim of serious sexual abuse by her uncle, that while he was talking to the police he was holding a stuffed toy that he had received from that same uncle. The cries of the children who asked when their father, the perpetrator of the abuse, would return home. “All this is very difficult to bear”, admits Esser, “I hope that now these children get the help they need from society. Then our effort will have been worth it ».

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