Beate Zschäpe was the main defendant on trial over the murder of eight ethnic Turks, a Greek citizen and a policewoman between 2000 and 2007. The v
Beate Zschäpe was the main defendant on trial over the murder of eight ethnic Turks, a Greek citizen and a policewoman between 2000 and 2007.
The verdict carries an automatic life sentence.
The connection between the murders was only discovered by chance in 2011, after a botched robbery led to the neo-Nazi group’s discovery.
Zschäpe shared a flat in the eastern town of Zwickau with two men, who died in an apparent suicide pact. The bodies of Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Böhnhardt were found in a burnt-out caravan used in the robbery.
Zschäpe, Mundlos and Böhnhardt had formed a cell called the National Socialist Underground (NSU). A fire at their home – apparently in an attempt to destroy evidence – led to Zschäpe turning herself in.
The NSU’s seven-year campaign exposed serious shortcomings in the German state’s monitoring of neo-Nazis, and led to a public inquiry into how police failed to discover the murder plot.
Four other defendants were also given jail terms for their role in helping the NSU gang:
- Ralf Wohlleben was sentenced to 10 years for aiding and abetting murder – he procured the silenced gun
- Carsten S, a juvenile at the time, was found guilty of handing the gang the pistol and silencer, and was given three years
- André E was given two years and six months for helping a terrorist group
- Holger G received three years for giving his birth certificate and other ID to Uwe Mundlos
Speaking ahead of the verdict, Zschäpe’s defence lawyer said she would appeal against any life sentence.
During the trial, Zschäpe denied taking part in the murders – but said she felt guilty for not doing more to stop them.
Why were the murders unsolved for years?
The NSU case covers 10 murders, two bomb attacks in Cologne and 15 bank robberies.
The murder victims were mainly ethnic Turks, shot during their working days with a CZ 83 handgun over the course of seven years.
Police had long suspected that the killers were ethnic Turks in the victims’ communities, earning them the nickname the “Bosphorus” murders after Istanbul’s famous river. The derogatory term “doner murders” – in reference to kebabs – was used by some parts of Germany’s press.
Neo-Nazi terror was overlooked, or perhaps deliberately ignored.
Germany’s fragmented policing system, with 16 different jurisdictions for the 16 states, may also have contributed to the intelligence failure.
One Greek victim, Theodoros Boulgarides, was also killed in 2005.
The final victim was Michèle Kiesewetter, a German policewoman, who was shot and killed while sitting in a patrol car on her break in 2007.
The link between the murders would only be discovered years later.