When Tristan Brübach was found dead in the Liederbach tunnel at Höchst station, it was a murder case that shook people far beyond the borders of Frankfurt. In the late afternoon of March 26, 1998, children playing found the mutilated body of the 13-year-old boy. It almost seemed like the killer presented Tristan there. The 13-year-old had been seen alive less than an hour earlier. The perpetrator is still unknown to this day.

It was the terrible end of a short life. On the witness calls, a blond boy looked at the people with a slightly defiant expression. Tristan had been traveling alone a lot – his mother had died young, his father raised him alone. On the afternoon of the murder he was seen on a bench at the Höchst station.

25 years later, most tracks have gone cold. A large special commission initially tried to clear up the case, but in the end only one investigator followed up on clues that were examined in connection with other criminal cases. “In fact, the last colleague who knew the case from the beginning is retired,” says Thomas Hollerbach, spokesman for the Frankfurt police headquarters. “The investigative approaches obtained so far have been exhausted according to the current possibilities of criminal tactics and technology. However, we will of course continue to follow up any information that could contribute to the investigation of the crime.”

The latest and most modern forensic technology is also included, insofar as there have been innovations in this area since Tristan was murdered. “So far, however, this has been unsuccessful,” says Hollerbach.

Even after 25 years, important questions are still unanswered. On the one hand there is a fingerprint made with Tristan’s blood, one of the most important traces of this case. It is compared with existing data at regular intervals – so far without success. In addition, it is still unclear who was in possession of Tristan’s backpack, which was only found in March 1999, after the crime.

The Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA)’s search notice for the Tristan case is still online – but it was last updated in 2015, as can be read on the website. The phantom image of an unknown man aged 20 to 30 at the time is still circulating. Several witnesses had seen the man with the boy – he has not yet been identified.

Suspects being investigated in connection with other crimes were being investigated in connection with the 13-year-old’s murder. For example, a suspected serial killer – so far in vain. Only three years ago, the investigators examined another new approach, says Nadja Niesen, spokeswoman for the Frankfurt public prosecutor’s office: “As part of the local investigation into the murder of Tristan Brübach, Christian B., who was investigated in the “Maddie” case, was also a possible perpetrator been tested,” she says. “However, there was no concrete suspicion.”

The Commissariat K11, CCU (Cold Cases Unit), of the Frankfurt Police Headquarters, which was last involved in the case, is continuing to follow up on leads – if they exist. “Lately, however, there have been no more promising indications and it is of course becoming more and more difficult to solve the crime as time goes on,” admits Niesen.

But there is always a response when the case is reported in the media or so-called true crime podcasts, says the prosecutor. In total, more than 23,000 tips were received.

Self-proclaimed amateur investigators discuss their own theories in internet forums – even today. The Tristan murder case gives many people no peace. There is also a website and Facebook page from private individuals who want to save Tristan Brübach from oblivion. Thanks to a private initiative, a small memorial based on a grave has commemorated the boy at the Höchst main cemetery since 2018. Tristan’s grave has now been leveled like the surrounding burial ground. The grave cross and a stone heart that stood on the original grave are now intended to commemorate him at the memorial. The inscription is simple: Tristan – born 1984 – murdered 1998.