Hope of a breakthrough in ‘German Madeleine McCann’ investigation as cold case sniffer dogs home in on new location eight years after Inga Gehricke, 5, vanished without a trace
- Inga Gehricke disappeared in 2015 during a family barbecue in Saxony-Anhalt
- As with Madeleine McCann, she has never been found by investigators
The parents of a five-year-old girl who vanished in 2015 have been offered a glimmer of hope with the news that cold case sniffer dogs have been deployed in the search.
Blonde, blue-eyed Inga Gehricke disappeared on May 2, 2015 during a family barbecue in a forest in Germany’s Saxony-Anhalt state.
The case quickly drew comparisons with the 2007 disappearance of Madeline McCann, a British girl who vanished from her family’s hotel room in Praia da Luz, Portugal at the age of three.
Despite extensive searches, media coverage and nationwide appeals, Inga – like Maddie – has never been found, with the mystery still hanging over Germany today.
But Inga’s parents Jens-Uwe and Victoria have been offered new hope this week, with investigators deploying sniffer dogs to the region she vanished from, with teams scouring woodland near to where she vanished.
The parents of a five-year-old Inga Gehricke who vanished in 2015 have been offered a glimmer of hope with the news that sniffer dogs have been deployed in the search
Blonde, blue-eyed Inga Gehricke (pictured) disappeared on May 2, 2015 during a family barbecue in a forest in Germany ‘s Saxony-Anhalt state
Former cop Axel Hehl, an ex-police officer who founded the ‘Victim Recovery Dogs’ association, said he participated in the search with his cold case sniffer dogs that specialise in searching for corpses.
Axel said: ‘The trained dogs’ noses sniff out smells and the smallest particles that arise when a person decomposes.’
The dogs were taken for investigation in the Uchtspringe area on Saturday, December 2, near to Wilhelmshof, Stendal where Inga vanished.
Axel told local media: ‘After our advance team in the summer, we were now on the search with four dogs.’
According to reports, the dogs stopped at one spot, seemingly sniffing something.
He added: ‘I’m 85 per cent sure there’s something there.’
The dogs cannot have sniffed animal remains, as they are trained to distinguish human from animal bones, according to local media.
The private detectives and lawyers who participated in the investigation, said: ‘We will search tirelessly for the needle in the haystack.
‘There is a lead, we just have to find it.’
Previously Tamara Zieschang, the Lower Saxon Interior Minister, had revealed a new squad of investigators has been formed to crack the Inga case.
Stung by criticism that previous efforts have not turned up a single new clue, she declared a new shake-up to ‘reorganise the case management.’
The Christian Democratic Union Minister said at the time: ‘Police in Halle (Saale) will support Stendal police. This step is part of a reorganisation of the case management after years of investigations without any results.’
Local media reported on April 25 that the new investigators will be part of a team dedicated to ‘crimes against life’.
She did not, however, say how many officers the unit will consist of.
The decision comes on the back of immense criticism of police over a string of blunders over the Inga case, which was initially dropped in 2017.
Berlin-based lawyer Steffen Tzschoppe, who represents Inga’s family, told politicians in February that 1,900 pages of investigation files on the activities of a convicted paedophile had simply disappeared.
The case quickly drew comparisons with the 2007 disappearance of Madeline McCann, a British girl who vanished from her family’s hotel room in Portugal at the age of three
And earlier this year, it emerged that police had found a sex doll in a convicted paedophile’s abandoned house that they bizarrely revealed resembled Inga.
Investigators then checked on a new lead that linked her disappearance with convicted paedophile Martin H., 41, from Berlin.
Lawyer Tzschoppe told the Bild newspaper: ‘He originally comes from near Stendal, not far from Wilhelmshof [district], where Inga disappeared.’
The lawyer claimed authorities have a 1,900-page file on the offender, who is already serving prison for previous sexual abuses of children.
The officers were reportedly puzzled when they rushed inside the offender’s ruined house in the area of Scheuder, near the town of Dessau, Saxony Anhalt, and found bricked windows, soundproof doors and countless mattresses placed inside a basement dungeon.
The dungeon could only be reached through a hatch estimated at 40 by 40 centimetres (15.7 by 15.7 inches) in size, police reported.
They additionally discovered full bondage kits and sex toys.
Later on, during their search of his Berlin flat, they found silicone sex dolls, one of which reportedly bore a striking resemblance with then-five-year-old Inga.
Tzschoppe said: ‘In May 2015, shortly after Inga’s disappearance, this offender used an excavator on his property.’
Martin H. had reportedly also dismantled his car on the property at the same time, claimed the lawyer.
Unwilling to reveal too many details, he added: ‘The Stendal investigators dropped the trail because they believed the man’s alibi.
‘In my opinion, however, the alibi is very doubtful.’
Tzschoppe pointed out the mistakes in the previous investigations and revealed that detectives hadn’t analysed the paedophile’s extensive file yet for further possible links.
He claimed that they reportedly stopped further examinations after only 11 days of investigations in 2019.
Also, in 2019, a high-ranking police officer allegedly admitted not having any experience with homicide cases after he had been appointed the head of a new special unit assembled to solve her disappearance.
And Christian Brueckner, a suspect in the McCann case, is reportedly also among the suspects to have been involved in the disappearance of Inga.
Christian Brueckner, a suspect in the McCann case, is reportedly among those suspected of being involved in the disappearance of Inga
At the time of her disappearance, 43-year-old Brueckner lived in a caravan at the site of an abandoned factory in Neuwegersleben around 68 miles from where Inga vanished.
Brueckner has been linked to a series of child abductions and murders in Portugal and Germany.
He is currently in jail in Kiel, in the German state of Schlweswig-Holstein, for drug dealing, and is appealing against a conviction for the 2005 rape of a woman near the Praia da Luz resort where McCann went missing.
Despite many years of police investigations and appeals to the public with a reward of EUR 25,000 (£22,150) for any useful information leading to her whereabouts, Inga has never been found.
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