After woman’s body found in barrel, husband may walk free

A woman disappeared in Hanover 24 years ago, but no one reported her missing. Although her husband has now confessed to her murder, he still may not step foot in jail.

After woman's body found in barrel, husband may walk free
Franziska S., who went missing 24 years ago. Photo: Hanover police.

Police made a grisly find in northern Germany this September when they discovered the body of a woman, mummified inside a metal barrel in her husband’s garage.

But the story gets stranger from there.

The body belonged to Franziska S., who was last seen in Hanover in 1992 when she was 26 years old. But at the time of her disappearance, no one reported her missing, police reported on Wednesday.

Her family had been convinced, presumably by the husband, that the pair had separated and she was living abroad, so there had never been a missing person report or further investigation. Prosecutors said they believed the husband had forged a message from her to her relatives stating “I am no longer here, and I am leaving”.

The family had not always had close contact with Franziska S., who had lived in a women’s shelter from the age of 16 until she was 19.

After she had been missing for more than 20 years, her family members decided to go to police in 2013.

When her husband, now 52, was questioned in the spring of this year, his story was at first inconsistent, leading officials to suspect that he had killed her.

In September, investigators went to the man’s new home in Neumünster – two and a half hours north of Hanover in Schleswig-Holstein – to confront him. It was there that he admitted to having strangled his wife to death in 1992 during a fight.

He also confessed that he had put her body inside of a metal cask, welded it shut and brought it along with him when he moved to northern Germany a decade later. Police arrested the man after finding the cask with her corpse inside a garage he had rented.

The husband faced manslaughter charges, but state prosecutors realized that the statute of limitations for such a crime was 20 years – and thus he was years overdue. Therefore prosecutors said they had to release him.

In Germany, the crime of murder does not have a statute of limitations, but manslaughter does.

But officials are still continuing the investigation into the crime, which is also made difficult by the fact that so much time has passed. And finding witnesses who had contact with Franziska S. is also a challenge – no one seemed concerned enough to report her missing more than two decades ago.

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Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

The German government says it is in talks over further compensation for victims of the attack on the Munich Olympics, as the 50th anniversary of the atrocity approaches.

Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

Ahead of the commemoration in September, relatives of the Israelis killed have indicated they are unhappy with what Germany is offering.

“Conversations based on trust are taking place with representatives of the victims’ families,” a German interior ministry spokesman told AFP when asked about the negotiations.

He did not specify who would benefit or how much money had been earmarked, saying only that any package would “again” be financed by the federal government, the state of Bavaria and the city of Munich.

On September 5th, 1972, eight gunmen broke into the Israeli team’s flat at the Olympic village, shooting dead two and taking nine Israelis hostage, threatening to kill them unless 232 Palestinian prisoners were released.

West German police responded with a bungled rescue operation in which all nine hostages were killed, along with five of the eight hostage-takers and a police officer.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists  held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Horst Ossingert

The spokeswoman for the victims’ families, Ankie Spitzer, told the German media group RND that the amount currently on the table was “insulting” and threatened a boycott of this year’s commemorations.

She said Berlin was offering a total of €10 million including around €4.5 million already provided in compensation between 1972 and 2002 — an amount she said did not correspond to international standards. 

“We are angry and disappointed,” said Spitzer, the widow of fencing coach Andre Spitzer who was killed in the attack. “We never wanted to talk publicly about money but now we are forced to.”

RND reported that the German and Israeli governments would like to see an accord by August 15th.

The interior ministry spokesman said that beyond compensation, Germany intended to use the anniversary for fresh “historical appraisal, remembrance and recognition”.

He said this would include the formation of a commission of German and Israeli historians to “comprehensively” establish what happened “from the perspective of the year 2022”.

This would lead to “an offer of further acts of acknowledgement of the relatives of the victims of the attack” and the “grave consequences” they suffered.