For years nothing happened in the case of the violent death of a Lower Franconian woman in Australia, then suddenly there were new investigations - and now the surprising turn of events: the murder charges against the then friend of the tourist Simone Strobel have been dropped in Australia.
More than 18 years after the crime, it is still unclear who is responsible for the death of the 25-year-old teacher from the Würzburg district. Her former partner had always denied involvement in the crime. He has lived in Australia for years and is married.
As the competent Lismore court confirmed to the German Press Agency on Wednesday (local time), all charges against the man were dropped.
Not enough evidence presented
In July last year, the then 42-year-old was unexpectedly arrested and accused of the murder of Strobel, with whom he had traveled through the country in 2005. He was also charged with obstruction of justice.
A few days later, the man, who also comes from Lower Franconia, was released on bail because the prosecution, in the opinion of the responsible judge, had not presented enough evidence.
Despite intensive investigations, the circumstances of Strobel's death have not been clarified to this day. In the year of her death, the young woman came to Australia with her boyfriend. Both traveled around the country in an RV and were later joined by the man's sister and her boyfriend. The four were together at a campsite in Lismore, about 700 kilometers north of Sydney, when Strobel suddenly disappeared in February 2005. Days later, her body was found under palm fronds not far from the campsite.
Her then-boyfriend has always maintained his innocence, but has been a prime suspect over the years. The Australian investigators accused the German of suffocating the woman in the mobile home and then hiding her body nearby.
Genetic material from another person
The suspect's defense lawyer had accused the judiciary of only relying on theories and ideas without concrete evidence. His client even provided his DNA and there was nothing to indicate that it would incriminate him, the lawyer said last year after the man's arrest.
On the other hand, genetic material from another person, "an unknown man", was found on a piece of black clothing discovered near where the body was found in 2019.
The public prosecutor's office in Würzburg had made a request for legal assistance in the course of the new investigations in Australia, but this remained unanswered apart from a confirmation of receipt. It was initially unknown on Wednesday morning to what extent the German authority would continue to act.