Uwe Böhnhardt outwitted German intelligence during a decade of racist killings with the neo-Nazi NSU. Now his DNA has been found near the skeleton of murdered child - and that's grounds for all manner of speculation.
The National Socialist Underground (NSU) is accused of 10 murders in its campaign of right-wing terrorism. The nine male victims all had foreign roots; the 10th was a female police officer from the state of Thuringia. The neo-Nazis Uwe Böhnhardt and Uwe Mundlos are thought to have carried out the killings. They are also dead. A police investigation found that the two killed themselves on November 4, 2011, in order to avoid arrest. Now, five years later, Böhnhardt's name has come up in connection with the unsolved 2001 murder of a 9-year-old girl named Peggy , whose remains were found in a forest near Thuringia's state line with Bavaria earlier this summer.
It is unclear whether Peggy was sexually abused before she was killed - but there is suspicion that she might have been. Traces of Böhnhardt's DNA were recently found near Peggy's skeletal remains. It is therefore an obvious assumption that Böhnhardt had something to do with the child's death. Still, authorities are at the very beginning of what is sure to be a complicated and tedious investigation. Fifteen years have passed since the girl was murdered.
Successfully linking these newly found DNA traces to the murder will present a daunting challenge. And, if investigators fail to find other evidence to connect the DNA to the case, any suspicion will remain inconclusive. Neither can one hope to glean information from Böhnhardt's accomplice Beate Zschäpe. Since 2013, Zschäpe, the only surviving member of the accused terror trio, has been on trial before Munich's Higher Regional Court for her role in the racist killing spree - and she has remained stubbornly silent throughout. She claims to have known nothing about her friends' actions until after the fact.
Böhnhardt is believed to have participated in the murders of 10 adults before taking his own life - now an investigation will look into whether the neo-Nazi killed children, too
NSU's sexual abusers
It is highly unlikely that Peggy's murder will be taken up in the trial. Although several lawyers for victims' families have said they would file motions, the court's criminal panel will likely deny such requests on the grounds that they are unrelated to the charges of racially motivated murder, bomb attacks and robberies in the NSU trial.
Although there is no direct link to the trial, there are other connections between the NSU trio and the sexual abuse of children. This is especially true in regard to one of the most important figures in the extremists' circle of associates and friends: Tino Brandt. In 2014, the neo-Nazi Brandt, who is also from Thuringia, was sentenced to several years in prison for the sexual abuse of minors. Brandt led a double life as one of the driving forces in Thuringia's right-wing scene and as an undercover informant for the state's intelligence agency.
This also puts Böhnhardt's possible involvement in the 1993 murder of a 9-year-old boy in Jena in a new light. The neo-Nazi was from Jena and was 15 years old at the time of the murder. A school friend told police that Böhnhardt killed the boy. However, the case was dropped after an investigation failed to produce conclusive evidence. That may now change: In the wake of the new DNA link, the Thuringia police department has appointed a special commission to investigate all unsolved child murders going back to 1990.