In Germany, the disappearance of the five years old Inga was a high-profile case that didn’t cease to be front page news for many weeks. Anyway, until today people keep talking about it. It all happened for a reason ‑ it was one of the most puzzling cases German police dealt with in recent years.
The day of the disappearance
It is Saturday, May 2, 2015. The parents have taken the five years old Inga with her siblings to their friends in the Deaconry (Diakoniewerk) Wilhelmshof situated near the town of Stendal (Sachsen-Anhalt). It is not only a visit to their friends working and living on the premises of the Deaconry but it is also being out in nature. The Deaconry (the employees care for people with addictions and disabilities) is situated in a beautiful area in the middle of the woods with lots of playgrounds and other attractions for children. Therefore the Deaconry is very often visited by whose who seek a rest in the bosom of nature.
Inga is a small blonde with two plaits. In Wilhelmshof, she is spending time cheerfully with her siblings and with the children of her parents’ friends.
Around 6 p.m. the picnickers prepare for the barbecue. The children help eagerly. Inga’s dad remembers how his daughter is carrying two one-and-a-half-liter bottles of mineral water towards the grill (later it was found that it had to take place around 6:30 p.m).
Moments later the children ask for permission to go to the forest to gather firewood. The parents agree but they ask the children to gather firewood at the edge of the forest only, not to go into the woods and, of course, to stick together.
Between the trees, the children all the time lose sight of each other but they generally stay together. Coming back with firewood they don’t notice that Inga is away. “Where is Inga?”, they are asked. The children answer she was with them only a moment ago, one of the children recalls to have seen Inga not more than five minutes ago…
It is around 6:45 p.m. (later on it was found that the girl must have disappeared between 6:30 p.m. and 6:45 p.m.).
The adults immediately go to the spot the children came from and delve into the woods. “Inga!”, all they cry out her name as loud as possible.
Here, at the edge of the forest, the trees don’t grow too densely; there are some bushes over there, but it is certainly not a place where you disappear from view when you move away a few steps. The adults ask the children whether they are sure to have gathered firewood right here or whether they, perhaps, went further away. All are upset but at this point they still believe that Inga would be soon found, that she simply got lost somewhere there.
The search takes about an hour, then Inga’s father calls the police.
At around 8:40 p.m. first police cars arrive and a large-scale search operation begins. Dozens of policemen are involved, a helicopter equipped with an infrared camera is brought in, too. After two days, i.e. on May 4, the operation range is extended. Policemen, firemen and security guards work round the clock. They scour the area, search practically everything, bale haystacks, pump water from ponds and reservoirs; of course, they also search the premises of the Deaconry and hear inhabitants and employees thereof. More than one thousand people and sixty trained police dogs take part in this search operation.
Also the tracker dogs, specially trained to track people using their scent, are brought in. Fifty kilometers from the spot Inga disappeared they smell her track near the Federal Motorway A2 in the direction of Berlin. The investigators take into consideration that she might have been kidnapped and carried by some vehicle to that place. However, the track is lost.
All in all, a surface area of 4.700 hectares was scoured. On May 7, after four days of round the clock work, the operation is aborted. For the first time, the police officially say that the hypothesis Inga was a victim of a crime becomes more and more probable, especially since the specialists maintain that Inga would have been found if she had got lost in the woods.
The case of Inga’s disappearance is still front page news for the media all over Germany; moreover, in May, news is broadcast by two TV channels (”Kripo Live” on MDR and „Aktenzeichen XY… ungelöst” on ZDF), whose viewers are asked for help in finding the girl. Both the programmes are very popular and have high ratings and after their broadcast many tips come in. Unfortunately, there is no one tip with new important information. On June 2, the Magdeburg Police Headquarters offers a reward of 25 thousand euro for a tip that leads to finding Inga’s location; this is the highest amount ever offered by the police of Sachsen-Anhalt. One day later, a new search operation in the woods takes place under involvement of 375 policemen. This time they scour this part of the area that is situated five kilometers south of the Deaconry Wilhelmshof; unfortunately, this operation does not lead to finding any tracks.
The Uchtspringe Forensic Psychiatry Centre is situated 3 kilometers from the spot of the disappearance. In this facility, people with mental disorders are accommodated, also sex offenders. The police have taken this track into account but without success. The police have eliminated the possibility that one of the patients had anything to do with Inga’s disappearance.
Investigation thread – pedophile Silvio S.
Half a year after Inga’s disappearance this case becomes front page news when Silvio S., 32 years old, gets accused of having kidnapped and murdered two boys, the four years old Mohamed and the six years old Elias. The village of Kaltenborn where Silvio S. used to live in lies in the neighbourhood of the small town of Jüterbog, Brandenburg, and the distance between Kaltenborn and the spot of Inga’s disappearance is slightly more than 100 kilometers. Did Silvio S. kidnap Inga, either? This question ceaselessly appears in the headlines of news stories on crimes of Silvio S.
Silvio S. admists to have committed crimes against both the boys (for what the investigators have irrefutable evidence) but he denies to have anything in common with the disappearance of Inga Gehricke. The police cannot prove that Silvio S. kidnapped Inga; besides, for the day Inga disappeared Silvio S. has a cast-iron alibi what the media inform about.
The case of Inga remains unsolved.
Formal discontinuation of investigation
On June 21, 2017 German media inform about formal discontinuation of investigation because there is not any person suspected of the crime, the police say. Within two years after the girl disappeared over two thousand pieces of information were checked and in total 600 on-site inspections were carried out. Inga’s files are stored in 16 boxes and count 150 volumes.
The phrase „formal discontinuation” is very important here – the investigators emphasize that they don’t cease to deal with this case and the formal discontinuation means that the last five policemen investigating mainly into this case will return to their former duties.
Possible versions of what happened
The following versions of what happened are taken into consideration:
- Inga got lost in the woods and trying to find the way back she delved into the woods and was not found in spite of the large-scale search operation;
- Inga was kidnapped because she was singled out by some of the employees or inhabitants of the Deaconry (the girl had been there earlier with her family) or she was kidnapped by such a person without any plan but because such opportunity arose;
- in Uchtspringe, 4 km away, there is a psychiatry centre. As a closed institution it is surrounded by a high barbed-wire fence, and the patients, of course, don’t stroll around, however, some of them are allowed to leave for several hours. Inga was dragged to the woods by one of them;
- Inga escaped or, in any case, deliberately left the place where the others were staying, ran through the fields and the woods and then reached the Uchtspringe railway station, got on the train and left;
- Inga was kidnapped and then murdered by Silvio S. (just like Mohamed and Elias) –although the investigation didn’t show Silvio S. had anything to do with Inga’s disappearance, however, this cannot be fully excluded.
Description of the girl on the day she disappeared:
- height about 120 cm
- slim build
- blue eyes
- delicate, bright eyebrows and long eyelashes
- both upper central incisors are missing
- blonde to medium blonde hair
The day she disappeared she was dressed as follows:
- bright neon yellow scrunchies (plaited hair)
- crown barrettes / outside pink barrettes with floral design
- mint-coloured long-sleeved shirt with printed butterflies; ruffles at the shoulders
- tights, underpants, undershirt
- shoes branded Elefanten, dark pink, with two Velcro closures; upper: suede
Clothing and appearance on the day of the disappearance (May 2, 2015) are as shown in the pictures above (view the photographs).