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The 9-year-old was last seen walking home from school in 2001. Her disappearance baffled police and became one of the most mysterious missing child cases in Germany. Now, investigators are closing the case.
German police have ended their investigation into the fate of Peggy K., almost 20 years after the schoolgirl disappeared from a town in the east of the state of Thuringia.
"After more than 19 years, this brings to an end a complex investigation that garnered a high level of attention nationwide and was repeatedly in the public eye," the Bayreuth public prosecutor's office said in a statement on Thursday.
Peggy was 9-years-old when she vanished while walking home from school on May 7, 2001.
Fifteen years later, part of her skeleton was found by a man gathering mushrooms in a forest near her hometown of Lichtenberg. Police have never reached a conclusion about her cause of death, or who may have had a hand in it.
Investigations have focused on a number suspects in the 19 years since Peggy went missing. Suspicion has also rested on acquaintances of Peggy's family.
A mentally disabled man was convicted of her murder in 2004, only to be acquitted in a retrial 10 years later.
Police also found traces of DNA belonging to a member of the neo-Nazi terror group the National Socialist Underground at the site where Peggy's remains were discovered. But that link was later put down to contamination of evidence.
In 2018, a man admitted to hiding the girl's body in the woods but denied killing her. The suspect told police he had taken the body from a friend at a bus stop in Lichtenberg, and had tried to reanimate the girl, before wrapping her in a red blanket and driving to the forest. He later recanted that confession.
According to the public prosecutor's office, there was insufficient evidence that he was "the perpetrator or had participated in causing Peggy K.'s death." It added that other potential offenses, such as obstruction of justice, could not be brought to trial because the statute of limitations has already expired.
Peggy's disappearance in 2001 sparked a far-reaching search, spanning weeks and even involving the deployment of German air force jets to assist. Hundreds of police were sent to comb caves and forests in the surrounding region.
The public sent in dozens of tips, but most clues led to dead-ends.