When German police discovered traces of DNA at the scene of a multimillion-euro jewelry heist, they must have thought that they were closing in on their villain. The problem was, it led to not one but two suspects.

After five fruitless weeks of searching for further evidence, investigators were yesterday forced to release identical twins Hassan and Abbas O. because they could not link the crucial DNA exclusively to one of the brothers.

It was almost two months ago, in the early hours of Sunday, January 25, that masked men lowered themselves into the grand main hall of Berlin’s luxurious Kaufhaus Des Westens department store. Somehow the intruders evaded motion detectors, and broke open numerous display cases at the boutique Christ before making off with around $6.8 million in jewelry and watches.

The heist, which was caught on video camera but only discovered on the Monday morning, made headlines around Germany because of its scale and audacity. Petra Fladenhofer, a spokeswoman for the famous old store, said: “There's no comparable crime in the store's history.” Detectives must have been delighted, therefore, when they discovered a glove at the scene on which they found clearly identifiable traces of DNA.

On February 11, 27-year-old Hassan and Abbas O. were arrested, with police suspecting that at least one of the brothers took part in the theft, and it looked as though the high-profile case had been cracked within little more than two weeks.

That assumption, however, reckoned without the duo’s virtually indistinguishable genes.

German law stipulates that each suspect must be individually proven guilty of a crime, but the twins’ DNA is so similar that it cannot be differentiated using methods currently accepted in German courts. No further evidence against either man has come to light, and so yesterday, both men, whose family come originally from Lebanon, walked free.

Both have refused to comment since their arrests, but the Berliner Morgenpost quoted a relative who said that the twins were “proud of and thank the German legal system”.

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