PARIS – The 74-year-old German man was snatched, beaten, tied up, whisked across the border and left outside a French courthouse in the middle of the night.
Now, a grieving French father has been handed preliminary charges for alleged involvement in the kidnapping of Dieter Krombach, whom he believes was responsible for the death of his adolescent daughter 27 years ago.
The question is: Did Andre Bamberski take justice into his own hands, hatching a scheme to bring his nemesis onto French soil — since German authorities had refused to extradite him over the years? And if so, will the attempt to force a new trial work?
The legal battle between the two men, now in their 70s, started after the death in 1982 of a 15-year-old with wavy blond hair and a shy smile. Kalinka Bamberski was found dead in Krombach's home, where she and her mother had moved in with Krombach after her parents' separation.
Andre Bamberski believes that Krombach gave his daughter a dangerous injection to make her lose consciousness so he could rape her, leading to her death, said one of his lawyers, Francois Gibault.
Krombach's attorney, Francois Serres, says his client insists he was not responsible and believes the teen's death was inexplicable. The German man was a longtime cardiologist, but Serres said he was unable to answer questions about reports that he had lost his license.
German justice authorities did not find sufficient evidence to press charges against Krombach at the time, but a Paris court tried him in absentia in 1995 and convicted him for "violence bringing on death, without the intention of doing so." Krombach was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
France requested his extradition, but German justice officials refused, on the grounds there was not sufficient evidence of wrongdoing.
Bamberski, now 72, made it his life's work to try to bring Krombach to court, hiring lawyers in France and Germany and rallying supporters through an association, Justice for Kalinka.
The story might have stopped there had Krombach not appeared, tied up, near the courthouse in the eastern French city of Mulhouse at 4 a.m. on Sunday. Police received an anonymous phone call from a man with what sounded like a Russian accent tipping them off to Krombach's presence.
Days later, Bamberski made a mysterious comment in front of news cameras: "I gave my go-ahead on Oct. 9, 2009, for Krombach to be brought to France." He did not say whom he gave his agreement to and provided no further details. Lawyer Gibault declined to speculate on what he meant.
Bamberski was handed preliminary charges Tuesday for kidnapping and willfully causing injuries, among other charges, the Mulhouse prosecutor's office said. Under French law, preliminary charges mean a magistrate has determined there is strong evidence to suggest involvement in a crime. They give the investigator time to pursue the inquiry before deciding whether to send the suspect to trial or drop the case.
Krombach was badly beaten during his abduction, suffering head wounds, a broken rib and other injuries that have forced him to use a wheelchair, lawyer Serres told The Associated Press. He said the German was brought to a Paris hospital in police custody.
Eventually, the lawyer said, authorities must decide whether "he has to be retried or not." He expressed incredulity that his client might be brought to court because his abductors illegally dragged him across the border.
"If French authorities don't trust the German justice system they should say so," Serres said on France-Info radio. "And if they prefer the methods of the Russian mafia for bringing someone onto French soil, they should say so."