The case of the girl who was locked up for years and isolated from the outside world in Attendorn, Sauerland, triggered cross-party horror in the North Rhine-Westphalian state parliament. At the same time, critical questions were raised on Thursday in the direction of the responsible youth welfare office.

MPs wanted to know how the child’s mother was able to go unmolested for years simply by claiming that she had moved abroad.

According to dpa information, the health insurance company had informed the Olpe district youth welfare office on request in October 2020 that the mother – who allegedly moved to Italy with her daughter in 2015 – was continuing to pay contributions in Germany.

In addition, the youth welfare office had already received a mysterious letter in autumn 2020 that referred to the eight-year-old child: the text was composed of cut-out letters and was written from the girl’s point of view.

According to the previous investigations, a second anonymous letter followed six weeks later, this time allegedly written by friends, acquaintances and neighbors. In autumn 2021 there was another report to the youth welfare office with specific information.

According to dpa information, the police were informed by the office for the first time. The employee reported to the police about an “ominous” reference to a captured girl – and asked if the house could be searched.

In return, the police asked whether the youth welfare office had already been there. Answer: no. The police asked the youth welfare office to do their own research first. After that, the office – according to the police – did not report for a long time.

With a court order into the house

In fact, according to the files, on October 15, 2021, two employees stopped by the address in question unannounced. The girl’s grandmother and grandfather, who officially lived there, opened the door but didn’t let the youth welfare office in. Daughter and granddaughter are not there. The employees left again.

It was only in June 2022, almost two years after the first letter, that the case started to move: A couple contacted the youth welfare office, which had found out about the girl indirectly and provided specific information. The youth welfare office asked in Italy whether the girl really lives there with her mother. Eight weeks later the answer: no.

Only now did the youth welfare office contact the police again, according to the investigation. She called several witnesses, drove past the address, was not allowed in – and stormed the house a few days later with a court order. That was on September 23rd.

The eight-year-old slept with her mother in a shared room. According to the investigators, she appeared normal, properly dressed and could express herself well. She found it difficult to climb the stairs. According to earlier information, the investigators assume that the eight-year-old was not allowed to leave the house for almost her entire life, for around seven years.

It is not only determined against the mother and grandparents. The youth welfare office is also in the sights of the public prosecutor’s office – because of the initial suspicion of deprivation of liberty and bodily harm in office through omission. Just a week after the girl was freed, the public prosecutor’s office at the youth welfare office had already confiscated files, it was announced on Thursday.

A member of parliament wants to know why the youth welfare office didn’t check the mother’s claim that she had moved to Italy earlier, but only after receiving several anonymous tips. How could it be that the mother, despite having custody of the father, simply leaves the country with the child and the youth welfare office is not interested, asks another MP.

District youth welfare office admits deficits

How could it be that the police and youth welfare workers stood in front of the house in which the child was held captive, but left without having achieved anything, asks another MP.

She also asks herself these questions, but is not the investigating authority, said NRW family minister Josefine Paul (Greens). “What could and should have gone differently in this case is still the subject of the investigation.”

She herself learned about the case from the media. For the SPD parliamentary group, one consequence is already clear: “The youth welfare offices need specialist supervision.”

The district youth welfare office has now admitted deficits: the procedural standards for child protection “were not fully complied with,” according to a report to the deputies that was published two days ago. In the future, any indication of a child’s welfare endangerment should be subject to the four-eyes principle.