Libel trial: A forensic expert used these methods to get to the bottom of Gil Ofarim

Dirk Labudde is considered the man for particularly difficult cases.

Libel trial: A forensic expert used these methods to get to the bottom of Gil Ofarim

Dirk Labudde is considered the man for particularly difficult cases. He is always commissioned "when investigators cannot make any progress using traditional methods of analyzing traces," it says on the back of his specialist book "Digital Forensics: The Future of Crime Solving." In it, Labudde reports on his methods.

Methods that were also used in the Gil Ofarim case. Ofarim had claimed that he had been subjected to anti-Semitic discrimination at the Westin Hotel Leipzig. When checking in in October 2021, a hotel employee asked him to take off the chain with the Star of David. A lie, as everyone has known since yesterday at the latest. Labudde, it seems, knew it for a long time.

He wrote 150 pages of reports on the case, as “Focus” reports. Labudde viewed the videos from the surveillance camera showing the hotel lobby area several times.

Labudde, 57, studied theoretical physics and medicine. He is considered an expert in the field of modern investigative procedures and even founded his own course of study called “Digital Forensics” at the Mittweida University of Applied Sciences. There he gives lectures on the topics of image processing, data reconstruction, IT security and encryption technology.

Labudde can do something that not many in his field can do: he reconstructs crime scenes in elaborate 3D models, simulates events, and creates digital images of suspected victims and perpetrators. Labudde sees what others don't see. You could also say: He makes it visible. This is one of the reasons why he became the prosecution's most important evidence in the Ofarim trial.

Labudde dissected the case down to the last detail and answered the investigators' most pressing question, namely whether Ofarim was really visibly wearing the Star of David necklace on October 4, 2021. To do this, he "first broke down the videos into individual images and then Quality improved with classic image processing techniques and artificial intelligence," as Labudde reported. He wasn't able to find Ofarim's chain, but he was able to find other details, such as a wooden chain and even the individual rivets on Ofarim's leather jacket.

In a second step, the forensic scientist re-enacted the incident with extras in the hotel in question. Ofarim even gave away his necklace with the Star of David, not knowing that he would be depriving himself of the basis for his own story. Because all of a sudden a difference could be seen when adjusting, a clear reflection of the chain. This must mean that the chain could not have been seen during the actual incident in 2021.

An investigative success, which Labudde did not triumphantly demonstrate in the courtroom. He appeared objective and focused there. He rarely spoke, but when he did speak, he was sure to have everyone's attention.

Gil Ofarim is by no means the first person Labudde has convicted. His expertise was just as needed during the robbery of the valuable gold coin "Big Maple Leaf" in Berlin's Bode Museum as it was during the break-in at the Green Vault in Dresden. Labudde reflected on his beginnings to MDR: It was once a Saxon public prosecutor who first brought him in on a case. Labudde was hooked and wanted to understand process flows and the argumentation structures in a procedure. “A defense attorney wants to know exactly whether you can clearly identify a masked person based on body measurements and body proportions taken from a surveillance camera,” says the forensic scientist.And, can you?

Labudde bought a body scanner and measured thousands of test subjects. He was then able to identify people based on joint positions, skeletal characteristics and bone lengths. Labudde, in turn, revealed to “Welt”: “If I believe in a method, then I and my team will kneel in it.” He now knows that only one in a million people has the same skeleton as another. Anecdotes like this show Labudde as a never-tiring person, a perfectionist, someone who doesn't give up. And he believes that the unknown is just a variable that can be approached with more and more information. Labudde is completely dedicated to his profession; his job is his calling. Who should be surprised that the bones of real criminal cases are stored in cardboard boxes in his basement? Labudde is serious, the job extends into private life.

“I want to usher in a new age of clues,” Labudde once said, in the spirit of his role model Edmond Locard, a forensics pioneer. But when doing research, Labudde often thinks of his grandmother, of a quip that she once passed on to him: Those who don't do anything new aren't smart. But he who applies new things to old things is wise. A slogan that Labudde is striving to establish in his investigative work. He repeatedly calls for training at police schools to become more digital, also in order to further improve the clearance rate. Almost 60 percent of all crimes and 90 percent of all murders are solved in Germany, as current figures from the police and authorities show. Not a bad rate, you could be happy with it. There are many. Dirk Labudde thinks there is a lot more going on.

Sources: “Bastei Lübbe”, “Focus”, “Mittweida University”, “MDR”, “Welt”