Remains found in German forest "likely" of child missing for 15 years

Human bone fragments discovered in a forest in the German state of Thuringia are "highly likely" the remains of a young girl who disappeared 15 years ago, investigators said on Monday.

Peggy was 9 when she went missing on her way home from school on May 7, 2001, prompting a major search operation.

A man with learning difficulties was charged with her murder in 2004, but acquitted in a retrial 10 years later because of lack of evidence after a key witness retracted his statement.

Initial forensic studies point to the girl and investigators said that several items found at the scene were also linked to Peggy.

A man foraging for mushrooms found the partially buried remains on Saturday in woodland 15 kilometres from Lichtenberg, Peggy's hometown. Further bones were later uncovered, police spokesman Juergen Stadter said.

"We consider it to be highly likely [that the remains are those of Peggy]," chief prosecutor Herbert Potzel said, describing the findings as "conclusive."

However, a statement said the investigators had not yet found reliable evidence on the cause of death.

At a press conference later on Monday, Potzel said that there was no new suspect yet in the unsolved case. "Whether it was murder, we cannot say at this current stage," he added.

Stadter said that experts were working to analyze countless traces of evidence found at the scene, as investigators continue to comb the area for further clues.

Police would reopen the questioning of witnesses, the spokesman said, without giving further details.

Last update: Mon, 04/07/2016 - 17:11
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