Home » Criminal history: The investigative errors in the Erwin Kostedde case

Criminal history: The investigative errors in the Erwin Kostedde case

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Criminal history: The investigative errors in the Erwin Kostedde case

Erwin Kostedde (77) was traveling in Münsterland with his Fiat. Suddenly he was stopped by the police between Billerbeck and Havixbeck. The ex-national player jokingly asked the officials whether he had attacked a grandma. Of course, the former star striker didn’t do that – but he was arrested nonetheless.

The accusation: One day earlier, on August 22, 1990, Kostedde is said to have robbed the “Joy” arcade in Coesfeld (North Rhine-Westphalia) with a pistol drawn and stole up to 190 D-Marks. The police came to this conclusion because, according to witness statements, the perpetrator was said to have had frizzy hair and a dark complexion.

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The arrest – for Kostedde it was the bitterest experience in his life, which was so full of low points! “Someone just said that. According to the motto: He looked brown, that was Erwin Kostedde. “It was a shame,” he recently told SPORT BILD. The former Bundesliga professional was wrongfully imprisoned. Dubious witness statements and blatant errors in the investigation landed him in custody for six months.

► The comparison! Kostedde sat all alone in the room. Three witnesses were asked behind a “Venetian mirror” that was only transparent on one side: “Is that him?” All answered: “Yes.” In North Rhine-Westphalia there was a regulation according to which the suspect had to be identified from a selection of six people.

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“We thought it was impossible to find five more colored people in the Coesfeld area,” the head of the Coesfeld police department later said in court. And he added: “We also wanted to get the matter done quickly so that if the suspicion had been wrong, Mr. Kostedde could have gone home straight away.” So the witness recognized the only person she could recognize at that moment: Kostedde.

► The witness: The cashier at the arcade said she heard the words “Money here!” in “broken German”. Kostedde speaks perfect German.

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► The murder weapon: The pistol with which the cashier was threatened was never found. Not even during a house search at Kostedde.

► The search: From the beginning, the police only investigated Kostedde. It was not investigated whether another perpetrator was also a possibility. Because 40 minutes after the crime in Coesfeld, another arcade was attacked in Nottuln, 16 kilometers away. A Pakistani man was arrested as the perpetrator – dark complexion, frizzy hair. Explosive: A photo of him was never presented to the witnesses in the Kostedde case.

Kostedde now lives in Everswinkel in the Warendorf district

Quelle: picture alliance/dpa/BROADVIEW Pictures

The false imprisonment almost cost Kostedde his life. While in prison, he thought about suicide out of desperation. His first plan: hang himself. Kostedde tried to make a rope out of a bed sheet. But he couldn’t complete the suicide attempt. “If it weren’t for my family, I would have taken my life,” he said on the occasion of his 75th birthday on May 21, 2021. His cellmate, a Dutchman, spoke positively to him. According to the motto: Suicide would have been an admission of guilt. He didn’t get many visits from his colleagues. Willi Lippens was the only one to visit him in prison

The professional footballer lost a lot of weight while in custody. He kept having sleepless nights and nervous breakdowns. He fought against so much resistance from an early age – also because he is dark-skinned. “I was often on the verge of giving up and telling myself: You’re just a mixed breed that people didn’t want,” Kostedde stated during his time as a footballer. It happened in shops that he wasn’t served.

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Turnaround on the second day of the trial

He also faced discrimination in football. Opposing fans often insulted him racially. As a striker for the Offenbacher Kickers, he had to endure insults from Frankfurter Eintracht supporters. Added to this was his private situation. It was not through no fault of his own, because he was acting in good faith, that he lost over a million marks to an investment fraudster. Kostedde was broke, had to sell his villa in Gohfeld, East Westphalia, and lived on social welfare during his arrest. And then came the time in prison…

Kostedde’s next plan in prison, as he confessed in Alexander Heflik’s biography: poison himself. He stuffed heaps of tobacco into his mouth, chewed it and swallowed it. The suicide attempt failed again. The correctional officers noticed his intentions. The former football star was transferred to the state hospital in Münster, to the closed ward.

Kostedde was imprisoned for almost half a year. He was then released from custody on February 8, 1991. The trial began on April 24, 1991 in the 3rd criminal chamber of the Münster Regional Court. Kostedde always emphasized: “It wasn’t me.” On April 30, 1991, the change in Kostedde’s favor. The statements made by the prosecution witnesses no longer held up on the second day of the trial.

A further five days of trial followed between May 5 and June 6, 1991. On these days, Kostedde’s now deceased wife Monika testified on her husband’s behalf and provided him with a credible alibi for the time of the crime. Lawyer Jürgen Knecht accused the police of inadequate investigative work and cited, among other things, the dubious comparison as an example.

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Applause in the courtroom

All of this had an impact on the public prosecutor, who now only demanded two years of probation instead of five years. Kostedde’s lawyer argued for acquittal. On June 13, Kostedde was acquitted in Hall 23 of the Münster Regional Court. The trial observers present celebrated the verdict with great applause. “We are not on the football field here,” the judge at the time warned those present.

In his verdict he said: “The benefit of the doubt for the defendant. But it cannot be ruled out that Erwin Kostedde was the victim of a mix-up.” The acquitted man said in the courtroom: “I had been asking myself for the last few months: What else is happening to you in your life? We lost our first son. I didn’t have any of the money I earned from football. And then this outrageous accusation that my family and I have suffered from.”

Kostedde in his third and last international match in 1975 against Greece

Source: picture alliance / press photo Rudel

Kostedde received compensation of 3,000 marks. “They could have given me ten million, my life was ruined,” he still says today. “I never thought something like this could be possible in Germany.”

Kostedde now lives in Everswinkel in the Warendorf district. He scored 98 goals in the Bundesliga for Meidericher SV, Offenbacher Kickers, Hertha BSC, Borussia Dortmund and Werder Bremen. In 1974 he scored the “Goal of the Year”. The son of an American occupying soldier made history and was the first dark-skinned German national player.

Despite all his success, life hasn’t always been kind to him.

The text was written for the Sports Competence Center (WELT, SPORT BILD, BILD) and first published in SPORT BILD.

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