DETMOLD, Germany: A court in western Germany on Thursday sent two men to jail for the ‘systematic’ sexual abuse of children at a campsite in the small town of Lügde.
Despite the lengthy sentences handed out, the prosecution had initially requested a 14-year sentence for Andreas V. It is thought that the actual numbers of victims could be much higher than 32 children and teenagers that the two defendants received their sentences for.
During the trial, the court heard how one victim, a girl, lived with Andreas V. at the camp as a foster daughter. She was used to finding other children to bring to the camp. Andreas V has been described by a psychologist as manipulative, narcissistic and antisocial with a deep desire for abusing children.
“After 10 days of trial the inability to truly understand the crimes remains,” she added before directly addressing the two defendants “you both degraded 32 youth and children to objects of sexual desire, and in doing so, destroyed 32 childhoods.”
At the start of the trial in late June, the presiding judge, Anke Grudda, had said she was “stunned” by the scale and the “undoubtedly repugnant” nature of the crimes. Local police and youth workers also faced investigations for dereliction of duty. Herbert Reul, the interior minister of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, called the situation a “debacle.”
Young girls were sexually abused at a campsite in a small German town for years. Child services looked the other way and the police let evidence disappear.
Roman von Alvensleben, the lawyer who is representing a 10-year-old girl whose testimony triggered the investigation against the main suspect, has seen many examples of human degradation in his long career. But the child sex abuse case in the small, western German town of Lügde is so devastating that even the experienced lawyer could hardly bear to read the file. After he did, he felt sick to his stomach.
More than 40 children between the ages of 3 and 14 are said to have been sexually abused on a campsite in Lügde. The charge against Andreas V, who lived there permanently, includes 298 criminal offences. His neighbour Mario S. is also said to have sexually abused children and watched and gave tips via online chat to Heiko V. who did the same. Authorities evaluated an incredible 14 terabytes of material including more than 3 million photos and 86,000 videos.
The local youth welfare office even entrusted him with a foster child, which he used as bait.
Family liaison officers visited every week. Sometimes they would find Andreas V. in his bathrobe and underpants, and see girls playing in his litter-strewn caravan — supposedly without noticing a thing. When a youth welfare worker did get suspicious, she didn’t intervene and even deleted the memo on Andreas V. Files were even manipulated after the scandal broke to clear local authorities of any wrongdoing.
The employees of the youth welfare office and local police were also under investigation for violation of duties of care and education. Despite clear indications of sexual abuse, the police did not take action.
A suitcase packed with 155 CDs and DVDs full of evidence disappeared without a trace at the police station, a fact that was only noticed weeks later.
The lawyer cited more examples of the authorities’ collective failure, criticizing the state’s victim protection officer for sending an official letter to all the victims.
Last year there were 12,321 investigations and criminal proceedings into child sex abuse. But those were just the cases that were reported. The actual number may be many times higher.