The youngest child that the police investigation team in the “Bergisch Gladbach” abuse complex freed from the hands of his tormentors was just three months old. The baby had been raped, said the head of the “Berg” investigation team, Michael Esser, at a press conference in Cologne on Wednesday. In the course of the investigation, a total of 65 children and young people up to the age of 17 were released in the past two years.
The members of the investigation team had “seen enormous suffering”, which led to psychological stress, said Esser in his résumé. The situations were sometimes “very surreal”, for example when the children cried after separating from the abusers. For example, during a hearing in Aachen, a girl desperately clung to a stuffed animal that her uncle had given her. “The tragedy in this statement took us all with it, because this uncle was our suspect who had done her indescribable suffering,” said a report by the head of operations. “Even the most experienced investigators were shocked by the severity of the abuse.”
The Bergisch Gladbach abuse complex describes a large network of suspects who exchanged information on child abuse online. The case started when investigators searched a father’s house in Bergisch Gladbach near Cologne in autumn 2019 and found vast amounts of child pornographic data. In addition, the investigators encountered many contacts with men who exchanged videos and images of serious child sexual abuse online. The police gradually came across more than 30,000 different leads. 439 suspects have now been identified, said Cologne police chief Uwe Jacob: “Every hour we spent here was worth the effort.”
Overall, the work of the investigation group “Berg” would have led to 15 “core proceedings”, said the head of the central and contact point Cybercrime NRW, Markus Hartmann. In 13 cases, perpetrators were convicted and a total of more than 80 years’ imprisonment was imposed. Two defendants died before a verdict. The “Special Organizational Organization Mountain” (BAO Berg) of the Cologne police started its work in 2019. It is now being resolved.