2/3 June 2013

Zschäpe’s conversations with police officers

Beate Zschäpe has so far remained silent in all formal interrogations. However, in other contexts she has talked, sometimes for several hours, with police officers. Law enforcement have thus tried to bring about situations in which officers had the opportunity to have informal talks with her. Several such talks were subject of witness testimony on 2 and 3 July 2013. The officers’ testimony proved to be very incriminating for Beate Zschäpe. Her defence argued tat evidence concerning these conversations must be suppressed, but was not able to show that the police had used illegal methods of interrogation.

The first witness was a police officer who talked to Zschäpe after she had been brought from Jena to Zwickau. He stated that Zschäpe told him that she had not surrendered to the police in order to remain silent. However, there was no formal statement at that time as her counsel was not present. Asked whether further crimes were planned or underway, she had answered in the negative. Later on she had stressed that she had never been forced to do anything.

Zschäpe also had several conversations with a young officer from the BKA, the Federal Criminal Police Office, who had already accompanied her on the flight from Zwickau to Karlsruhe, the seat of the Federal Court of Justice. He stated that during a waiting period, she noted that Mundlos, Böhnhardt and Zschäpe had always known that their cover would be blown one day. It was easier to sleep now that this had happened. Furthermore, she had promised Böhnhardt and Mundlos a long time ago that she would inform their parents in the event of their deaths, and she had done so before surrendering to the police. Asked about items in the basement of the burned house in Zwickau, she had answered in a surprised tone that she did not feel entitled to dispose of items paid with money stemming from crimes.

On 25 June 2012 Zschäpe was allowed to meet her mother and grandmother in the prison in Gera. Accordingly, she was transported from the prison in Cologne, where she was detained, to Gera. On the four hour drive to and from Gera, she was accompanied by a high-ranking BKA officer who brought up several details from the case files. Again, Zschäpe proved talkative. The officers recalled that one issue discussed was her unhappiness with the work of her defence counsel Heer. She had accused him of working together closely with the press, something she did not agree with.

According to Zschäpe, her counsel had advised her to remain silent. She had added, however, that if she testified, she would give a long, detailed statement, as she was a person who took responsibility for what she had done. The witness seemed to recall that, in answer to the possible mitigating effect of her testifying, she had said that she did not believe her testimony would have a positive effect on her sentence.

She had also stated, however, that she was on the one hand annoyed about the ugly mug shot of her that had been published everywhere, but that she was also happy about it as it would keep people from recognizing her after her release from prison. After that release, she planned to take on a different name and live a normal life.

It thus appears that a year ago, Zschäpe was rather optimistic in assessing the sentence awaiting her. However, given the testimony of police officers that she was informed of the crimes of Mundlos and Böhnhardt, that all three anticipated death at any moment and had made arrangements concerning that case, and that she considered herself personally responsible, a life sentence seems a much more realistic outcome.