Cologne After the raid on Tuesday on 50 suspects, the Cologne police have given further details of the abuse case in Bergisch Gladbach. There were also searches in Bonn, Cologne and Düsseldorf.
Investigators of BAO Berg in Cologne spent ten months working to decode dozens of aliases in child abuse chats - on Tuesday they were able to strike: In twelve federal states, 60 flats and houses were searched and more than 2000 pieces of evidence such as mobile phones, hard disks and computers were seized from a total of 50 suspects. The suspects are 48 men and two women, as BAO head Michael Esser said at a press conference in the Cologne police headquarters on Wednesday. BAO stands for "Besondere Aufbauorganisation" (Special Organisational Structure), a large team of investigators with a special command structure which the police otherwise only use in cases of hostage-taking or terrorist attacks.
The suspects are said to have possessed and distributed child pornographic pictures and videos. "So far, we have no indications that they have also abused children themselves", says Esser. The suspects are "a cross-section of society", he says. "Single, married, young, old.
"The largest search operation of BAO Berg so far involved 1000 police officers. During operations of this kind, the police use special units to raid the premises in order to surprise the suspects, not to give them the opportunity to delete data - and to confiscate mobile phones if possible in unlocked condition, as Esser explains.
Nevertheless, one of the suspects managed to withdraw into the bathroom with his smartphone on Tuesday in Saxony and partially destroyed the device. Esser is confident that all data can be recovered. In Bavaria, where most of the premises were searched, a server was seized, which contained numerous films and pictures of abuse.
Police surprised suspects from NRW at the Baltic Sea
Police officers surprised a suspect from NRW on a beach on the Baltic Sea and took him for interrogation. In NRW, nine suspects were searched in Düsseldorf, Cologne, Bonn and Recklinghausen. One pregnant woman and one suspect required medical treatment due to circulatory problems. A total of four people were slightly injured during the searches - among other things they suffered a shock. There were no arrests, and all suspects were allowed to leave after initial questioning. Now all the evidence is being evaluated - as with every confiscation of child pornographic material, there are masses of pictures and videos.
The large-scale operation is connected with the Bergisch Gladbach abuse complex. "We are putting more and more pieces of the puzzle together," says Esser. The aim is to end the suffering of the children. At the same time, Esser knows: "We will certainly not be able to identify all suspects from the chats, but we will continue to work hard.
Since the arrest of the Bergisch Gladbach family father Jörg L., who is currently on trial in Cologne, BAO Berg has been able to investigate 207 suspects across Germany. 94 of them are in NRW. From the outset, the investigators have also been cooperating with the Central and Contact Office Cybercrime North Rhine-Westphalia (ZAC NRW), which is based at the Cologne public prosecutor's office. Since July, a special task force for combating child abuse has been operating there. "With actions such as those on Tuesday, we are able to link evidence," says senior public prosecutor Markus Hartmann, head of ZAC NRW. The evaluation of the evidence will now take a lot of time.
(Original text: Claudia Hauser, Translation: Mareike Graepel)