Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Germany: Fast-Forward Four Years, Irish Expat's Family Still Looking for Answers

Fitzpatrick had been working in Baden-Württemberg for three years, working for a pharmaceutical company and was looking forward to heading home for Christmas two days later. He had already bought presents for his family back in Galway.

The Fitzpatrick Family want Mannheim police to reopen an investigation to address their many unanswered questions surrounding Matthew's death.

German police refuse to re-open their investigation, pointing out that they have already thoroughly investigated Fitzpatrick's death. 

A court must now decide whether officers should open a murder probe. 

An autopsy on December 15, 2010 in Heidelberg, four days after his body was discovered, concluded that Matthew's death was suicide by hanging.

According to the Fitzpatrick Family attorney, is where the first mistake was made.

The family was told that Matthew died from hanging, which reportedly tainted the outcome of the autopsy.

An autopsy in Dublin on December 18, came to very different conclusions about the condition of Matthew's body.

It discovered dozens of injuries, including defensive wounds, fingerprint marks on his elbow and an injury on the back of his head.

“There is a dramatic difference between the German and Irish autopsies,” his brother, Patrick, told The Local. “There were a lot of injuries on Matthew’s body which we’re not sure how they got there.”

Disappointed with the police’s probe into his death, the family gathered 400 pages of their own evidence.

COMMENT: The family found that Matthew’s computer and personal laptop had been accessed after his death. One of his computers, which went missing from the apartment before police arrived, was logged into the day after his body was found.

“We also have mobile phone records which account for where he was [the day of his death], which contradicts eyewitness accounts,” Patrick said.

Matthew’s camera and a baseball bat were also missing from his flat and have not been recovered.

Meanwhile, the witness who found Matthew has changed their story about the location and position of the body on three occasions.

They first said his body was hanging from a balcony door handle. That story then changed on two more occasions, with a different account of the position and location of his body given each time. “Every time we’ve challenged eyewitness evidence the story has changed,” Patrick said.

None of this evidence regarding injuries, body position and stolen property which the family gathered and presented to Mannheim investigators in February 2012 appeared in a second police investigative report into Matthew’s death which concluded this year, the family say.

The family’s lawyer in Germany, Dr. Helga Müller, told TheLocal:  “I have seen photos of the body. There are clearly injuries which cannot be the result of hanging. It cannot be a suicide. There is just too much evidence against [that theory].”

“Nobody knows how the hanging happened,” Müller added. “And that is reflected in the police files.”

Patrick also said no police forensic collection were conducted at the apartment after Matthew’s body was found. “There are too many unanswered questions,” he added.

Müller, meanwhile, said a police officer in the initial investigation, which closed after two weeks, was very reluctant to investigate anything other than suicide.

“They didn’t go into the evidence. They didn’t regard the injuries,” she said. “The police’s first probe finished very quickly.”

The Fitzpatricks put in a complaint to police about an officer in that first investigation.

In Germany, police complaints are investigated by the police, rather than by an independent body. 

The family’s complaint was not only dismissed, but Müller said after it was lodged the second police investigation slowed down.

They were initially told it would take six to seven months, but it took two years.

That investigation which opened in 2012 concluded in February 2014 and found that Matthew had committed suicide.

Despite the two-year wait, the family said the second investigation failed to answer any of their questions or address the inconsistencies which they raised in their 400-page report surrounding Matthew’s death. “They ignored much of the evidence that we brought them,” Patrick said.

“The investigation carried out was determined to prove that Matthew had psychological problems.”

While the police investigation in Germany remains ongoing, a coroner in Dublin in 2011 returned an open verdict on the question of whether or not suicide had been the cause of death.

The family has now appealed to the Higher District Court (Oberlandesgericht) in Karlsruhe to force the police and prosecutors to reopen the investigation and take the family’s evidence into account.

That court has now received the family’s 400 pages of evidence as part of 1,000 pages of police documents into the case. A verdict is expected in the coming weeks. “We have to continue pressuring [them],” Patrick said.

Several people in the Irish pub scene in Mannheim have been questioned about Matthew’s death, Müller told TheLocal.

One person who may have been able to help police with their investigation was called in but then not interviewed, simply because he needed a translator, Müller said.

A spokesman for Mannheim prosecutors defended the police investigation and addressed the allegations and concerns raised by the family. He told TheLocal.

"The extensive investigation in Mannheim, led by experienced detectives, came to the conclusion that Matthew Fitzpatrick committed suicide. There has been no substantial suspicion of criminal involvement by anyone.

"The numerous arguments of the family were considered and tested extensively. This explains why the process took two years…."There was no severe head injury. An autopsy was carried out on the body immediately by the Institute of Legal Medicine at the University of Heidelberg. No evidence of foul play was found."…."The police searched the apartment of the deceased in the normal way. Again, this led to no suspicions of third party involvement."

Back in Ireland, the family is pressuring the Irish government to help them with the discrepancies in the the two autopsies. 

They wrote a letter to the Justice Minister, Foreign Affairs Minister and acting Garda Commissioner in April 2014 about the case. It asked them to “make formal representation to the German authorities” and also notes that, “as an Irish citizen, Matthew’s rights have been seriously violated,” Irish news site THE JOURNAL reported.

The Fitzpatrick Family's are best read on the family website:


“Why are the German police ignoring the murder of Matthew Fitzpatrick? Is this because Matthew is a foreigner in Germany or is it something more sinister in Mannheim?”

The family is now waiting and hoping the court in Karlsruhe will order police to reopen the investigation and answer their many questions over his death.

"The Mannheim prosecutor has considered and tested our evidence extensively; this is false," Patrick said.

"We provided the prosecutor with medical evidence of up to 45 injuries to Matthew's body, yet there was no attempt by the police to contact the pathologist in Dublin to discuss the matter.

"We provided medical and technical evidence which proved that Matthew was not found hanging, yet this was ignored by the police."

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