Few crimes moved people in post-war Germany as much as the kidnapping and death of little Ursula Herrmann. The ten-year-old was abducted on September 15, 1981 at Ammersee and locked in a buried box – the girl suffocated. To this day, many doubt that the real perpetrator was convicted – even Ursula’s brother. And after 40 years, the case is still preoccupying the lawyers. A current investigation is ongoing with the public prosecutor in Augsburg.
In November 2020 a new “letter of confession” appeared. The public prosecutor’s office has been reviewing the letter ever since. The investigators assume that the alleged author did not actually write the letter himself. Rather, it is assumed that an unknown person wants to blacken someone.
Meanwhile, it is the 40th anniversary of the kidnapping. On the way home, the child was abducted in Eching. The student’s bike was found, but Ursula had disappeared without a trace. The parents received blackmail calls and a letter demanded a ransom of two million marks. In fact, Ursula was long dead by this time. The air supply in her earth dungeon was not working, the girl had no chance of survival. On October 4, 1981, the buried box with the body was discovered.
The State Criminal Police Office (LKA) counts the kidnapping as one of the most spectacular crimes of the criminal authority. On a website, the LKA reminds that 5,000 reports have been processed and 20,000 fingerprints have been compared. But beyond that, the police investigations were overshadowed by mishaps, and one perpetrator was initially not caught. TV investigator Eduard Zimmermann also tried several times in his popular ZDF program “Aktenzeichen XY … ungelöst” to find the kidnapper. The television presenter, who has since died, reported how he was touched by the images of the child crammed into the box and suffocated there. The dead Ursula looked at him “with pleading eyes”. “Until now, those eyes haunted me,” said Zimmermann two decades after the crime.
It was not until 2008 that a man was arrested in Kappeln in Schleswig-Holstein who was later sentenced to life imprisonment in Augsburg. The 71-year-old still denies being the perpetrator. Indications of possible accomplices are also unclear. To this day there are still doubts as to whether the right person is in prison.
But there will probably not be a new criminal trial for the act of 1981, even if the public prosecutor would now find a new perpetrator. Because, according to the prosecution, the act is statute-barred. The crime is counted as extortionate kidnapping with fatal consequences – not as murder for which there is no statute of limitations. On the other hand, lawyer Joachim Feller, who represents Ursula’s brother, could imagine classifying the case as murder and renegotiating it according to new rulings. Feller also does not rule out that the mysterious “letter of confession” can provide new clues. Because it may contain “perpetrator knowledge”, he emphasizes.