Doubts cast on police as ‘maskman’ jailed for life

A 47-year-old man known as “the maskman” was sentenced to life in jail on Friday on charges of attempted murder and kidnapping - despite the case raising serious questions about the integrity of the Brandenburg police.

Doubts cast on police as 'maskman' jailed for life
The alleged "mask man" in court. Photo: DPA

Die Welt describes it as one of the most notorious cases in the recent history of the German judicial system.

A man wearing a beekeeper’s mask to hide his face was alleged by the prosecution to have preyed on two millionaire families on the outskirts of Berlin for over a year.

First he attacked the wife of a wealthy businessman n front of her villa in Bad Saarow. Then a few months later he tried to shoot her daughter.

A security guard intervened to protect the young woman and took a bullet, leaving him in a wheelchair to this day.

A year later a bank manager was kidnapped from his house not far from the scene of the previous crimes.

According to the victim’s account, his assailant blindfolded him and bound him to the back of a kayak before pulling him through the cold autumn waters of Lake Storkow to a wooded island.

After two days tied to a tree he was able to escape captivity injury free, the banker claimed.

The prosecution argued that a string of attacks of this nature deserved a life sentence.

But the defence disputed the charges, saying the evidence was circumstantial and that there was no clear proof linking their client to the crime. They called for the defendant to be cleared of all charges and released.

The prosecution had built their case around a blanket found on the island where the banker was held, which had been stolen from the defendant’s neighbourhood.

They also pointed to the man’s interest in firearms, although no weapon was ever found relating to the shooting at the villa in Bad Saarow.

In the end the judge at the court in Frankfurt (Oder) agreed with the prosecution.

Doubts over investigation

But the trial raised major questions about the integrity of the main witness, the kidnapped banker, and also the honesty of the Brandenburg police.

Investigations by the defence and a local television channel cast serious doubts on the banker’s testimony.

The defence team recreated the kidnapping and found that it was highly unlikely someone could have stayed in the water as long as the man had claimed without sustaining injuries.

Police who gave testimony to the court also claimed that their seniors did not allow them to follow every possible avenue of investigation into the kidnapping, particularly the possibility that it was a sham.

Further questions were asked about the transparency of the police when it emerged they had concealed documents relating to their investigation from the defence team.

A final dramatic twist in the trial came in its closing weeks, when the defence brought forward the possibility of a second suspect – an ex-policeman.

Defence lawyers argued that the police had not properly considered this man as a suspect and called for the man’s DNA to be tested against DNA found at the crime scene. But tests conducted by the Office of Criminal Investigation did not find a match.

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EXPLAINED: Berlin’s latest Covid rules

In response to rapidly rising Covid-19 infection rates, the Berlin Senate has introduced stricter rules, which came into force on Saturday, November 27th. Here's what you need to know.

A sign in front of a waxing studio in Berlin indicates the rule of the 2G system
A sign in front of a waxing studio indicates the rule of the 2G system with access only for fully vaccinated people and those who can show proof of recovery from Covid-19 as restrictions tighten in Berlin. STEFANIE LOOS / AFP

The Senate agreed on the tougher restrictions on Tuesday, November 23rd with the goal of reducing contacts and mobility, according to State Secretary of Health Martin Matz (SPD).

He explained after the meeting that these measures should slow the increase in Covid-19 infection rates, which was important as “the situation had, unfortunately, deteriorated over the past weeks”, according to media reports.

READ ALSO: Tougher Covid measures needed to stop 100,000 more deaths, warns top German virologist

Essentially, the new rules exclude from much of public life anyone who cannot show proof of vaccination or recovery from Covid-19. You’ll find more details of how different sectors are affected below.

If you haven’t been vaccinated or recovered (2G – geimpft (vaccinated) or genesen (recovered)) from Covid-19, then you can only go into shops for essential supplies, i.e. food shopping in supermarkets or to drugstores and pharmacies.

Many – but not all – of the rules for shopping are the same as those passed in the neighbouring state of Brandenburg in order to avoid promoting ‘shopping tourism’ with different restrictions in different states.

2G applies here, too, as well as the requirement to wear a mask with most places now no longer accepting a negative test for entry. Only minors are exempt from this requirement.

Sport, culture, clubs
Indoor sports halls will off-limits to anyone who hasn’t  been vaccinated or can’t show proof of recovery from Covid-19. 2G is also in force for cultural events, such as plays and concerts, where there’s also a requirement to wear a mask. 

In places where mask-wearing isn’t possible, such as dance clubs, then a negative test and social distancing are required (capacity is capped at 50 percent of the maximum).

Restaurants, bars, pubs (indoors)
You have to wear a mask in all of these places when you come in, leave or move around. You can only take your mask off while you’re sat down. 2G rules also apply here.

Hotels and other types of accommodation 
Restrictions are tougher here, too, with 2G now in force. This means that unvaccinated people can no longer get a room, even if they have a negative test.

For close-contact services, such as hairdressers and beauticians, it’s up to the service providers themselves to decide whether they require customers to wear masks or a negative test.

Football matches and other large-scale events
Rules have changed here, too. From December 1st, capacity will be limited to 5,000 people plus 50 percent of the total potential stadium or arena capacity. And only those who’ve been vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 will be allowed in. Masks are also compulsory.

For the Olympic Stadium, this means capacity will be capped at 42,000 spectators and 16,000 for the Alte Försterei stadium. 

3G rules – ie vaccinated, recovered or a negative test – still apply on the U-Bahn, S-Bahn, trams and buses in Berlin. It was not possible to tighten restrictions, Matz said, as the regulations were issued at national level.

According to the German Act on the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases, people have to wear a surgical mask or an FFP2 mask  on public transport.

Christmas markets
The Senate currently has no plans to cancel the capital’s Christmas markets, some of which have been open since Monday. 

According to Matz, 2G rules apply and wearing a mask is compulsory.

Schools and day-care
Pupils will still have to take Covid tests three times a week and, in classes where there are at least two children who test positive in the rapid antigen tests, then tests should be carried out daily for a week.  

Unlike in Brandenburg, there are currently no plans to move away from face-to-face teaching. The child-friendly ‘lollipop’ Covid tests will be made compulsory in day-care centres and parents will be required to confirm that the tests have been carried out. Day-care staff have to document the results.

What about vaccination centres?
Berlin wants to expand these and set up new ones, according to Matz. A new vaccination centre should open in the Ring centre at the end of the week and 50 soldiers from the German army have been helping at the vaccination centre at the Exhibition Centre each day since last week.

The capacity in the new vaccination centre in the Lindencenter in Lichtenberg is expected to be doubled. There are also additional vaccination appointments so that people can get their jabs more quickly. Currently, all appointments are fully booked well into the new year.