The death of twelve-year-old Luise from Freudenberg shocks even the most experienced investigators. In a faltering voice, the Koblenz chief prosecutor Mario Mannweiler reports that two girls from the circle of acquaintances, themselves only twelve and 13 years old, have confessed to having killed Luise. Numerous knife wounds were found by the Mainz forensic doctors, the victim bled to death.

Reiner Burger

Political correspondent in North Rhine-Westphalia.

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Because the two confessed perpetrators are not criminally responsible, they will not have to answer in court. Unless a third, criminally responsible person is involved in the case – for which the investigators have found no evidence – then the criminal proceedings must be discontinued under the law solely on the basis of the childhood age of the two suspected girls. This disturbing case is "in the hands of the youth authorities," says Mannweiler. The two girls were already in a "protected space".

For reasons of youth and privacy protection, he can only disclose "certain little information", even if there is a broad public interest, says Mannweiler. "But the case is . . .", Mannweiler pauses, ". . . but the case is special." Jürgen Süs, deputy chief of police in Koblenz, says: "After more than 40 years of service, there are still events that leave you speechless."

Early on, the investigators noticed contradictions

In their first reports, the police had said at the weekend that Luise had been seen on Saturday around 17.30 clock for the last Time, as she made after visiting a friend on foot on the way home. When Luise did not arrive home, her parents first searched for her on their own before calling the police at around 19:45 p.m. Although numerous forces were involved in the search operation and a helicopter and drones were also used, Luise initially remained missing. It was not until early Sunday afternoon that her body was found in rough terrain on Rhineland-Palatinate territory, i.e. not, as would have been expected according to the first statements of the suspect girls, on Luise's way home, but in the opposite direction.

Already in the first interrogation of the two alleged perpetrators, many contradictions to the numerous information received from the population had been noticed. At a second hearing in the presence of guardians and psychologists, investigators confronted the girls with these contradictions on Monday – then they confessed.

Riddle according to the motif

Many questions have to leave the investigators on Tuesday with reference to the personal rights of the children unanswered. Much remains open in this disturbing case – whether both stabbed or whether there were one or two murder weapons. "And as far as the motive is concerned, the matter is highly complex," says Mannweiler. "What might be a motive for the crime for children might not be apparent to an adult." In any case, the motive is beyond "what one would find out in the case of a criminally responsible offender". The fact that the law enforcement authorities are now excluded in the case does not mean that "nothing will be done now," emphasizes the chief prosecutor. "Such cases are among the most complicated tasks faced by youth welfare offices. The real work starts now."

Homicide committed by children is extremely rare. Only in 0.4 percent of homicides in 2019 were people under the age of 14 suspects. "But they do exist," says Johann Falk Burchard, who is a senior physician in juvenile forensics at the psychiatric clinic in Marsberg. It is true that child perpetrators cannot be sent to the correctional facility – because they are not criminally responsible. However, with the permission of the family court, placement in child and adolescent psychiatry is possible if this is done in the best interests of the child, in particular to avert a considerable danger to oneself and others.

"It may be that a game tragically derails"

"Regardless of this current case, one can make fundamental statements," says Burchard in an interview with the F.A.Z. Children who come from orderly, protected backgrounds almost never attract attention with (extreme) acts of violence. Conversely, however, family neglect and the ever earlier access to adult media content led to brutalization. It is also necessary to analyse every single act of violence committed by children. "It may be that a situation, a game, an act of revenge, tragically derails."

Children are much less protected than life-experienced adults from getting into situations that become independent. "The control ability of children is lower and the impressionability greater than in older people." It is also very unlikely that several perpetrators all have a mental disorder, says Burchard. Rather, either a disturbed perpetrator drags an inconspicuous offender with him, or a situation derails.

It is true that girls rarely stand out with acts of violence in the crime statistics compared to boys. But from several decades of clinical experience, Burchard has the impression that aggressiveness has increased in girls with criminal responsibility. Burchard notes this, among other things, in the fact that the approximately ten places for girls (out of 400 for boys) available in the youth correctional system throughout Germany are no longer sufficient today, unlike just a few years ago.