Authorities in Frankfurt are investigating two people who claimed to have witnessed mass sexual assaults on New Year’s Eve saying the pair may have been making up the attacks.
Frankfurt prosecutors announced the beginning of an investigation into 27-year-old Irina A. and a local chef named Jan May who claimed a group of 50 Arab men terrorised his customers and sexually assaulted women. The pair gave their account of the events to the German tabloid Bild, but police have cast serious doubts on the authenticity of their story, Frankfurter Rundschau reports.
According to Mr. May, the group of 50 men came into his restaurant terrorising his guests, stealing their jackets, and sexually assaulting several female patrons. The story was backed up by the 27-year-old woman who told the paper, “They grabbed me under my skirt, between the legs and on my breast – everywhere.”
Police say the story didn’t add up after they discovered the women in question was not in Frankfurt on New Year’s Eve and so could not have experienced any type of sexual assault.
They also noted that before the Bild article had been published they had not received any criminal complaints regarding mass sexual assaults saying, “Masses of refugees were not responsible for any sexual assaults in the Fressgass over New Year. The accusations are completely baseless.”
“Interviews with alleged witnesses, guests, and employees led to major doubts with the version of events that had been presented,” police said.
“One of the alleged victims was not even in Frankfurt at the time the allegations are said to have taken place,” they added.
Editor in Chief of Bild, Julian Reichelt, has apologised for the article and the newspaper has removed it from their website. On Twitter, Mr. Reichelt wrote there would be “consequences” as a result of the article.
— Julian Reichelt (@jreichelt) February 14, 2017
This is not the first time German media have been fooled by the so-called “fake news” phenomena. Last year in Berlin, a group of pro-migrant activists called “Moabit Helps” claimed a migrant had frozen to death waiting for benefits. The story was widely reported across German media, but when no dead migrant was found and the sole witness went into hiding, the story was proved to be a hoax.
In Austria, a young Muslim girl claimed she had been attacked at a train station by people who had torn off her hijab and tried to throw her onto the train tracks. After police looked at the footage they saw the girl walk onto a train with no violence occurring at all and launched an investigation claiming she lied to police.