Five on trial in Germany accused of operating paedophile ring

Boys allegedly drugged with ecstasy and knock-out drops for often lengthy abuse

A defendant (behind book)  is led into the courtroom at the start of a trial against five people suspected of having sexually abused several children, at the Regional Court in Münster. Photograph: Rolf Vennenbernd

A defendant (behind book) is led into the courtroom at the start of a trial against five people suspected of having sexually abused several children, at the Regional Court in Münster. Photograph: Rolf Vennenbernd

 

Four German men and a woman have gone on trial accused of operating a paedophile ring from an allotment cottage.

For at least two years, a 27-year-old man, identified only as Adrian V, allegedly abused his stepson in the cottage and their nearby apartment in the western city of Münster.

At least three boys – aged five, 10 and 12 – were victims of the abuse; they were allegedly drugged with ecstasy and knock-out drops before being abused, in one case over two days and nights.

“The main defendant is accused of abusing his stepson over many years and offering him to others for abuse,” said Gregor Saremba, Münster district court spokesman. “His mother is accused of making available the allotment cottage, knowing it was being used for abuse.”

As well as serious sexual abuse in 18 cases, the 27 year old faces charges of production of child pornographic material and violation of narcotics law.

Three other men, aged between 30 and 42, are also standing trial facing charges of serious sexual abuse.

All are alleged to have brought their own young sons to the cottage to be abused by others, with video and photo material sold later online.

Children may testify

The opening day of the trial in Münster district court, in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia, was taken up reading a 25-page charge sheet listing alleged offences from the end of 2018 to April 2020.

In addition the accused face charges of abuse in other cities, from Dortmund to Aachen.

All of the accused have remained silent on the charges against them, making it likely that the children will be required to testify in court.

The case is crucial, say investigators, because their investigation turned up 1,200 terabytes of child sexual abuse material on 2,520 storage devices. This huge collection of child sexual abuse images has led them to 31 others active in paedophile exchange rings.

Police say the material recovered from the cottage is extreme and will only be showed in a closed court.

“Even the most experienced criminal investigators have come up against the limits of what is humanly tolerable – and beyond,” said Münster police chief Rainer Further.

Previous sentences

For regional politicians in North Rhine-Westphalia, the Münster case, the third in the last two years, is a further embarrassment as more than a year passed between the first tip-off and the 27 year old’s eventual arrest. During this time the man, with two previous suspended sentences for possessing child sex-abuse material, was still living with his partner and stepson.

“Unfortunately police have to work carefully, also in this case,” said Herbert Reul, state interior minister. “It took time to translate clues into workable material for local police.”

The main defendant is an IT technician by trade and images of his apartment show metal shelves filled with computer servers and extensive cables and other technical equipment.

Police moved in on the man in May to seize his laptop. A week later, after cracking the laptop encryption and securing crucial material, the man was arrested.

Child-protection groups say the Münster case, the third such paedophile ring to be uncovered in the last two years, should be an alarm call for German authorities to force greater communication between police, courts and child protection authorities.

“I hope that politicians now finally understand, also through the Münster case, that the battle against sexual violence is a national task,” said Johannes-Wilhelm Rörig, head of Germany’s independent commission into the sexual abuse of children, “and that everything must be done so that young people are more effectively protected against abuse than in this case”.