Something Ventured, Nothing Gained Police Used 'Metaphysicist' in Search for Neo-Nazi Murder Cell

For years, German law enforcement officials searched in vain for the people behind a baffling series of murders ultimately attributed to the Zwickau neo-Nazi cell. At one point, police in Hamburg even turned to an Iranian 'metaphysicist' for help -- but it only added more confusion to their hunt.

  Beate Zschäpe (l), Uwe Böhnhardt, and Uwe Mundlos called themselves the National Socialist Underground (NSU).    Photo: Frank Doebert/Ostthüringer Zeitung
DPA/ Ostthüringer Zeitung

Beate Zschäpe (l), Uwe Böhnhardt, and Uwe Mundlos called themselves the National Socialist Underground (NSU).

Photo: Frank Doebert/Ostthüringer Zeitung

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It was a trail of blood leading right across Germany: In a six-year period, the trio of right-wing extremists in a neo-Nazi cell calling itself the National Socialist Underground (NSU) killed nine small-business owners, including eight Turkish Germans and one person of Greek origin. For a long time, law enforcement officials couldn't establish a connection between the violent crimes, and their investigation was hindered by countless mistakes.

New investigative files are now in the hands of a committee of the Bundestag, Germany's lower house of parliament, investigating the NSU murders. The documents provide proof of just how desperately officials were trying to identify the murderers -- and of how police in the northern city-state of Hamburg turned to unconventional sources for assistance in their investigations.

For example, one Iranian "metaphysicist" reportedly offered to use a "medium" to help the police get in contact with Süleyman Tasköprü, a Turkish-German greengrocer who had been killed in Hamburg seven years earlier. Police higher-ups gave the green light for the special team investigating the murders to take the Iranian up on his offer. In April 2008, the Iranian shared with police the supposed results of his metaphysical "questioning" of the murder victim, which the police duly noted.

According to their records, the necromancer told the police that he had made contact with the murdered greengrocer for 10 to 15 minutes via a female medium while staying in a rental apartment in Hamburg. He said he was told the murder had been "unplanned," that an "injustice" was behind the deed and that drugs might have played a role. The victim had been "in contact with a gang," he reportedly continued, made up of up to eight "motorcyclists/bikers," one that might have been known to the police but had "no high degree of organization."

'It Could Involve a Turk'

The metaphysicist reportedly went on to say that someone with a headscarf stood out. A member of the gang was named "Armin" or "Amin," he continued, while another one was called Mustafa "Horgh." He reportedly said the deceased also provided a description of the murderer. "The perpetrator was supposedly of dark complexion (southerner), with brown eyes and black hair," the police documents say. "He is allegedly very young, and it could involve a Turk."

Today, officials in Hamburg know that what the Iranian told them bears little in common with the actual facts of the murder. But at the time, the information from the other world appears to have interested police officials there enough to run a cross-check with their in-house information system. The search turned up nothing.

"Unfortunately, I can't do anything with this," an information official wrote to a colleague in an email. "In particular, with regard to the motorcyclists, I unfortunately can't assist you in this matter any further."

Not as Harmless as Thought

The files also describe in detail how officials in Hamburg came into contact with the Iranian. They say that two officers assigned to the special investigative team met on January 18 with an Iranian management consultant in the lobby of Hamburg's InterContinental hotel. During the meeting, the woman apparently raved about the man's special abilities.

She described him as the "giant among metaphysicists" and referenced his "unofficial name recognition in Iran," according to the police notes. Her Iranian friend thought he might be able to help the police in Hamburg advance their investigation in a "decisive" way, she reportedly told them. They simply needed to apply to get him a visa.

The officials said they were interested in working together. But they also made it clear to the woman that they couldn't afford to provide her Iranian friend with financial compensation "in the form of ticket prices, overnight stays or payments for 'meetings.'"

Although she didn't view that as a problem, she reportedly asked whether her friend was still eligible to claim the €300,000 ($375,000) the police had offered as a reward for information leading to an arrest in the case. The officials promised her the money as long as the results of the man's "questioning" of the deceased led to the murderer's conviction.

"Nothing ventured, nothing gained -- and, ultimately, we have nothing to lose," one of the officers involved in the talks wrote to his colleagues in an email. "If we have already gotten the green light to use hypnosis in interrogations, in my opinion, it doesn't do any harm for us to also try this, especially if it doesn't cost us anything and we only have to get involved in the visa matter."

In hindsight, the interaction with the Iranian offered no positive results. In fact, news of it just shines another spotlight on how hapless investigators were while pursuing these murder cases.

News of the Hamburg authorities' unorthodox approach has also angered some members of the Bundestag.

"The trail of right-wing extremism was not pursued in Hamburg, where they used information from necromancers, instead," says Sebastian Edathy, the parliamentarian who chairs the committee investigating the NSU. "Unbelievable!"

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