By David Rising Associated Press
BERLIN — More than 100 officers and a helicopter using thermal imaging technology were searching today for the wife of a German banker who was kidnapped last week from her home in the southwest of the country.
Despite hundreds of tips, police say they have no new clues to her whereabouts, five days after she disappeared.
Maria Boegerl, 54, was seized Wednesday morning from her home in the town of Heidenheim. Shortly afterward, the kidnapper contacted her husband, Thomas, an executive with a local bank, and demanded euro300,000 ($375,000) in ransom, according to German media reports. Police have only identified the ransom demand as “a large amount of money.”
Boegerl was able to briefly speak with her husband at that time, telling him that her life was in danger, according to police. That was the last time anyone has heard from either Boegerl or her kidnapper.
Thomas Boegerl placed the ransom money at the side of the A7 highway between Heidenheim and Aalen-Oberkochen — marking it with a German flag as he had been ordered — but the kidnapper never picked it up, police said.
The family is now offering a euro50,000 ($63,000) reward for any information that leads to the victim’s release, and police said they have received more than 500 tips on two special hot-line telephones that are staffed around the clock.
Their main hope is tracking down a baldheaded salesman who was going door-to-door selling products to raise money for the blind, who was reportedly in the area of the Boegerl home at the time she was taken and may have witnessed the crime, police spokesman Markus Ott said. He was being sought as a witness, not a suspect, Ott said.
Police put out posters today appealing to the salesman, or anyone who might know him, to come forward.
Over the weekend, police took a 44-year-old man into custody and searched his house, but later released him.
Ott said police were still awaiting results of forensic tests being done on the victim’s car and her cell phone, which were found Friday in separate locations. He said he could not divulge when the tests were expected to be complete.
Meanwhile, police have employed divers to search local bodies of water, and authorities combed the area over the weekend with more than 100 search dogs, hundreds of officers and two helicopters using thermal imaging systems, Ott said. Some 100 officers and one helicopter were being used in the search today.
Boegerl’s husband manages a local public banking group, Kreissparkasse Heidenheim, which has 34 branches, according to its website.
In another German kidnapping case targeting a banking family, 11-year-old Jakob von Metzler, the son of a prominent Frankfurt banker, was kidnapped and killed by Magnus Gaefgen in 2002, despite the ransom having been paid.
Gaefgen, a former law student, pleaded guilty to von Metzler’s murder and is serving a life term in prison.