Suspect in German girl′s disappearance 5 years ago arrested in Italy | News | DW | 07.09.2018
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Suspect in German girl's disappearance 5 years ago arrested in Italy

A man suspected of involvement in the 2013 disappearance of a then 13-year-old girl has been arrested in Italy, police say. Maria H. returned to her family a week ago.

German police said on Friday that a 58-year-old man from the western German city of Blomberg had been arrested in Italy in connection with the disappearance five years ago of 13-year-old Maria H., who returned to her family as an 18-year-old last week.

Police had issued an international arrest warrant for the man on the grounds of child abduction and sexual abuse of a child. The circumstances of the arrest are still unclear.

Police reported that the suspect, Bernhard H., was thought to have disappeared with Maria H. after getting to know her on the internet, where he posed as a teenager despite being 40 years older than her. The two also met up subsequently in hotels in the southern city of Freiburg, where Maria H. lived, police said.

The man's wife had already reported him to authorities for approaching minors online.

'Easier just to go on'

Police said last Friday that Maria H. was "physically well" after being brought back from Milan in northern Italy by friends of her father, whom she had unexpectedly contacted last week.

On Wednesday, Maria H. told police that following her disappearance, she had stayed with the man for some time in Poland, sleeping in the car. She said she had then gone off on her own with a bike and a tent, traveling through several eastern European countries before ending up in Italy after three months.

There, she earned money with occasional jobs, moving into her own apartment two years ago.

She wrote on Facebook that she had left the man in Poland after his behavior toward her became unpleasant.

"Later, I thought that I could return after the dust had settled. And then it was easier just to go on than to come back," she wrote.

tj/msh (dpa, AFP)

Editor's note: Deutsche Welle follows the German press code, which encourages outlets to refrain from revealing the full names of suspected criminals and victims.

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