Hamburg Prosecutor Found “Lack of Evidence” to Support Claim Child Was Gang-Raped at Refugee Centre

My friend Tim Ireland has received a response to a query he made to the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Hamburg concerning a sensational news story that appeared in British newspapers in March 2017:

‘The investigation in the case of alleged sexual abuse you mentioned has been stopped by the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Hamburg on 11 May, 2017, due to lack of evidence. The case is closed.’

The story had been reported in the Daily Star as follows:

Five ‘Arab migrants’ gang-rape little girl, SEVEN, at refugee centre

Cops are probing a “serious sexual assault” at the Central Initial Reception Center (ZEA) for refugees in the Hamburg, reports say.

The alarm was reportedly raised on Tuesday evening shortly after 7pm.

A girl, aged seven, is thought to be the victim of the alleged group sex attack, German newspaper BILD reported.

Five Arabs have reportedly been accused of carrying out the alleged assault.

Public prosecutor Nana Frombach told BILD: “We have initiated a case against five persons.

“There had been no urgent need for action. The investigation will continue.”

By placing the quote marks around the suspect description but not the other details, we are to infer that the reality of the incident has been confirmed, even though the main text refers only to “the alleged assault”. And the webpage title dispenses with any doubt whatsoever, simply reporting “Girl raped by five migrants at refugee centre in Hamburg, Germany”. This was perhaps the original headline, and it is the form used in several early Tweets that referred to the article.

A follow up piece then appeared on Mail Online, under the headline “Seven-year-old girl is gang-raped at an asylum centre in Germany as ‘five Arabic men’ are investigated”. This article led with the claim that

German police are investigating another horrific gang rape apparently involving a seven-year-old girl who had been living at an asylum centre.

This was a couple of weeks after a group of Iraqis had been sentenced for the gang rape of a German tourist in Austria; I suspect that this is why the author writes “another horrific gang rape”, although taken at face value he appears to be claiming a spate of gang rapes perpetrated against seven-year-olds at asylum centres. This report also contains an alternative translation of the quote from Frombach:

Prosecutor Nana Frombach said: ‘We have opened an investigation against five people. The circumstances or what happened are still unclear. The investigation is continuing.’

The Daily Star version is referenced in Robert Spencer’s book Confessions of an Islamophobe, in which he cites “There had been no urgent need for action” to imply that the offence was not investigated with appropriate urgency. In fact, however, Frombach referred to “dringender Tatverdacht” (urgent suspicion), a legal term that refers to the amount of evidence available rather than to the seriousness of an alleged offence.

A further confusion in the reporting was that the British tabloids claimed that the investigation had begun just a few days before, when in fact the original BILD report had appeared in March 2016, exactly a year beforehand. It appears that the British journalists simply misread or overlooked the correct date. Had they bothered to do any research of their own this would have become apparent, and they could have provided an update.

Here’s how BILD reported it – with a headline that comes in the form of a question:

Mädchen (7) von fünf Männern vergewaltigt?

Die Polizei ermittelt wegen schweren sexuellen Missbrauchs an einem Kind in der Zentralen Erstaufnahmeeinrichtung (ZEA) für Flüchtlinge im Hamburger Stadtteil Bahrenfeld.

Wie erst jetzt bekannt wurde, wurden bereits am Dienstagabend kurz nach 19 Uhr Beamte alarmiert. Es wurde angezeigt, dass ein Mädchen (7) Opfer einer Gruppenvergewaltigung geworden sei.

Als Täter wurden fünf angebliche Araber beschuldigt. Unklar ist, ob es sich bei den Männern um Besucher oder Bewohner der Einrichtung handelt.

Oberstaatsanwältin Nana Frombach bestätigt: „Wir haben ein Verfahren gegen fünf Personen eingeleitet. Es erhärte sich bisher kein dringender Tatverdacht. Die Ermittlungen werden fortgesetzt.“

We can’t know for sure exactly what happened with such minimal information, but given the lack of any further journalistic interest it seems reasonable to conclude that the whole thing was no more than an unsubstantiated rumour, and that this is why the case was closed.

Appendix: Tommy Robinson and Nadine Dorries

As anyone would expect, the Daily Star article was promoted on Twitter by “Tommy Robinson” as part of his anti-Islam activism. Robinson’s Tweet reflected the “Girl raped by five migrants at refugee centre in Hamburg, Germany” formulation, and it was soon afterwards embedded in Tweet from Nadine Dorries MP.

Dorries added her own expression of shock and dismay at the allegation, but she could have done that without promoting Robinson at the same time – as far as I am aware, she is the only Conservative Member of Parliament to have RTed Robinson. [UPDATE: I’ve since seen that Bob Blackman MP previously RTed Robinson in 2016, although he claims to have done so “in error”]

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