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The “suicide” of judge Kirsten Heisig

On June 28, Kirstin Heisig, a notoriously tough magistrate at the juvenile court in crime-ridden Neukölln, went missing. The public prosecutor quickly announced that Heisig had committed suicide by hanging. But was it really?

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File number: EXB002-missing-judge

Year: 2010

THE FACTS: On June 28, Kirstin Heisig, a notoriously tough magistrate at the juvenile court in crime-ridden Neukölln, went missing. Germany’s most controversial judge, Heisig pioneered the Neuköllner Modell, which streamlined trials and dealt harsh sentences to juvenile offenders, earning her the nickname ‘Richterin Gnadenlos’ (Judge Merciless).

After she was reported missing, Heisig’s abandoned car was found parked near the Tegel forest in Berlin-Heiligensee. Hundreds of police conducted a search action and on July 3, police recovered her dead body in the forest. The public prosecutor at first imposed a total news embargo but then quickly announced that Heisig had committed suicide by hanging.

THE THEORIES: The conspiracy theories connected to Heisig’s death as such are rather simple. They state that due to the strictness she exercised she would have been a more-than-likely target for an act of vengeance by the very same people she had locked up or by their relatives. Alternatively, the massive Arab clans, which she publicly accused of infiltrating the German welfare system to set up structures of organised crime, might have wanted her out of the way.

Even provocateur Thilo Sarrazin became subject of the speculations. Filled with malevolence, the former Bundesbank official and Berlin finance minister may have done away with a competitor whose thesis, clout and personality could have overshadowed his own hard line on immigrants before the release of his book. (His infamous Deutschland schafft sich ab/ Germany does away with itself came out only four weeks after Heisig’s posthumous and unequivocally titled Das Ende der Geduld/The End of Patience.)

All of the theories point to the fact that, knowing what a passionate and life-affirming person the mother of two was, a suicide does not seem to make sense. She was at the height of her career and about to publish her second book. Reluctance to accept that Heisig killed herself was encouraged by close friends and colleagues, such as Neukölln district mayor Heinz Buschkowsky, who stated, “Someone like her doesn’t just kill herself.”

What’s more, despite her exposed position, Heisig refused to have bodyguards, rendering herself easy prey. For the police, admitting the ‘truth’ would have meant admitting the inability of the political system to protect its best-known exponents.

The man who most persistently claims that Heisig’s death wasn’t a suicide is Gerhard Wisnewski, a controversial investigative journalist and as many critics agree, an unrepentant conspiracy theorist widely known for his eccentric positions on 9/11. Wisnewski has published a stunning series of articles contesting the official version of Heisig’s death and raising a number of questions. For instance, why did it take five days to discover the body hanging from a tree in a much-frequented forest in the summer, when the heat would have caused the corpse to stink?

In the days following the discovery, a hiker found a plastic sheet with traces of a brown fluid and a tied up dead dog – leading to speculation that a murderer killed both Heisig and her dog (she had one!). This ‘evidence’ was quickly collected by the police. Just one day after that, a pile of logs was placed on the exact spot where the dog was found, suggesting – at least to conspiracy theorists – that “Heisig’s first grave” may have been covered up.

ANALYSIS: The police’s failure to present a satisfactory explanation regarding the exact circumstances of her death (how/where did she die exactly?) for months fueled all the speculations. Why was there a news embargo for days after the discovery of her body? Why did the police and public prosecutor withhold evidence from journalists?

But a court order finally forced the prosecution to release the classified information last November. It established that xxxxxxxx Heisig was found hanging from a tree on a cable, with no sign of violence but with an overdose of antidepressant. Successful, strong-willed Heisig was actually suffering from depression. As Buschkowsky put it: “There must have been a second Kirsten Heisig whom none of us truly knew.”

BELIEVABILITY (out of 10): X X