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Kidnapped German doctor's trial in French girl's killing begins

Dieter Krombach is accused of killing teenage stepdaughter Kalinka Bamberski in Germany in 1982. He was abducted and taken to France two years ago.

March 29, 2011|By Kim Willsher, Los Angeles Times
  • Andre Bamberski, father of slain teenager Kalinka Bamberski, speaks to reporters during a break in the trial of German doctor Dieter Krombach.
Andre Bamberski, father of slain teenager Kalinka Bamberski, speaks to… (Charles Platiau / Reuters )

Reporting from Paris — The trial of a retired German doctor suspected of killing a teenage girl nearly 30 years ago began Tuesday, 18 months after the doctor was kidnapped, bound and dumped outside a French courthouse.

Dieter Krombach, 75, faces charges he killed stepdaughter Kalinka Bamberski in 1982 while the girl and her mother were with him in Germany. The girl's father, Andre Bamberski, has accused Krombach of the killing for years and admitted knowing about the plan to kidnap him, though Bamberski insists he did not organize or participate in the attack on Krombach.

The two men came face to face Tuesday, sitting on opposite sides of the Grande Salle in Paris' historic Palais de Justice. Bamberski, a 73-year-old retired accountant, was close to tears, as Krombach, who has always denied killing the girl, shuffled into the oak-paneled courthouse, leaning heavily on a crutch.

"It is a great relief he is here because right up to last night his lawyers were telling us he might not appear and he would not be saying anything, so we are just happy he is here," Bamberski, who faces charges related to the kidnapping, said during a recess.

A French court in 1995 convicted Krombach of manslaughter in absentia and sentenced him to 15 years in prison. But German authorities refused to hand him over, saying he had been investigated and cleared of any wrongdoing.

In 2009, Krombach was kidnapped from outside his home in Germany, tied up and driven across the border where he was left trussed, gagged and bleeding outside the courthouse in the eastern French city of Mulhouse. He has been imprisoned while Paris has refused Berlin's requests for his repatriation.

The case goes back to July 1982, when Kalinka Bamberski, who lived with her father and younger brother in France, was spending summer vacation with her mother, Daniele, and Krombach at their home near Lake Constance in Germany.

The morning of July 10, she was found dead in her bed. Krombach, who had called emergency services, said he had injected her with an iron-based compound to help her tan faster. He later said it was because she was anemic.

German investigators dismissed the case for lack of evidence. But Bamberski, upon reading autopsy reports, became convinced Krombach had given his daughter the injection to make her lose consciousness so he could rape her.

After Krombach was convicted in 1995 in France of "intentional violence that led to unintentional death," his case was referred to the European Court of Human Rights, which declared that the French court had been wrong to conduct a trial in the absence of the defendant.

Two years later, Krombach pleaded guilty in a German court to drugging and raping a 16-year-old girl in his office. He was given a two-year suspended sentence and banned from practicing.

The current trial's opening day focused on whether the French court had the right to judge Krombach. His lawyers argued that the hearing should be suspended and the case sent to the European Court of Justice for a decision on whether the proceedings were valid.

Outside court, Philippe Ohayon, one of Krombach's lawyers, said: "How is it possible inside a relationship of trust within the European Union that from the other side of the Rhine, Mr. Krombach is innocent, and on this side we don't acknowledge German justice and he is accused? It is an unacceptable situation."

Laurent de Caunes, a lawyer for Bamberski, who is a civil party to the criminal case, told reporters that the possibility of a trial is unbearable to Krombach.

"The French judicial system now has him under their wing," De Caunes said, "and it has to judge him."

Willsher is a special correspondent.

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