Page last updated at 08:05 GMT, Tuesday, 30 March 2010 09:05 UK

Father's crusade in name of 'murdered' teen

Andre Bamberski pictured earlier this month at a court in Paris
Andre Bamberski waits during a hearing for a release request by Mr Krombach

By Hugh Schofield
BBC News, Paris

Andre Bamberski, a retired French accountant, spent 27 years of his life in fruitless pursuit of the German doctor who he believes raped and murdered his 14-year-old daughter. He is now accused of taking the law into his own hands five months ago.

Abandoning faith in the official channels, this devout and quietly-spoken Roman Catholic was party to a kidnap. On the night of 17 October, his target Dieter Krombach was abducted in Bavaria, driven across the border to France, and dumped bound and gagged before the courthouse in the eastern town of Mulhouse.

Today Mr Krombach, who is 74, languishes in the Fresnes prison outside Paris, and his trial for murder is set for later this year. Mr Bamberski, 72, also faces criminal charges - for kidnap - but for the first time since his daughter Kalinka died in 1982, he says he feels at peace.

"At last I know that the purpose of my life will be fulfilled," he told the BBC from his home in Toulouse. "Dieter Krombach will be judged for murder in a criminal court, and I will be there to see it happen."

Undated file picture of Dieter Krombach
Dieter Krombach was convicted in absentia by a French court in 1995

Mr Bamberski has just published an autobiography - Pour Que Justice Te Soit Rendue (So That You See Justice Done) - in which he describes his extraordinary personal crusade. For many people in France, he has become something of a minor folk hero.

However, not everyone is convinced the tale is as straightforward as it may initially look. In Germany - where prosecutors ruled long ago that Mr Krombach had no case to answer - there is widespread anger at the kidnapping, and at France's decision to let a murder trial go ahead.

A court in Paris was also asked to ban Mr Bamberski's book on the grounds that it infringed the presumption of innocence. However, it ruled on 30 March in favour of publication.

"On 50 occasions in the book my client is openly accused of murder: how is he supposed to get a fair hearing now?" asked Mr Krombach's lawyer, Yves Levano.

The story begins in the German town of Lindau, where Kalinka was living after her mother Danielle had separated from Mr Bamberski and set up with Mr Krombach, a doctor. On 10 July 1982, the teenager was found dead in her bed. Her step-father said he had given her an injection of iron cobalt the previous night because she was anaemic.

Highs and lows

The post-mortem failed to establish a cause of death. However, it did find signs of injury to her genitals as well as an unspecified white substance in her vagina. This was never followed up, but it convinced Mr Bamberski that his daughter had been sedated and then raped. Mr Krombach was questioned by German police, but in 1987 the case there was closed for want of evidence.

Mr Bamberski's subsequent campaign to have Mr Krombach brought to justice was a long series of highs and lows. In 1995, a French court tried and convicted the German in absentia, but eight years later that sentence was quashed by the European Court of Justice because Mr Krombach had not been defended in the trial.

Mr Bamberski became convinced that there were hidden interests at stake. He believed the German and French authorities were colluding to prevent an extradition, and that Mr Krombach enjoyed high-level protection. He unsuccessfully sued French prosecutors for failing to take proper action.

A file picture of Kalinka
Kalinka died when she was 14, while on vacation with Mr Krombach

His biggest breakthrough came in 1997, when a German court convicted the doctor of sexual assault on a teenage patient. He was struck off, and later convicted again for continuing to practise medicine. Mr Bamberski took to haunting Mr Krombach's home, forcing him repeatedly to change address, but his efforts seemed to be leading nowhere.

Then, Mr Bamberski says, out of the blue last October came a telephone call from a Kosovan called Anton Krasnicqi who offered to "deliver" Mr Krombach to France. The man said he was acting out of sympathy and wanted no money. Mr Bamberski consented, and a few days later he received a late-night phone call telling him that the doctor was in Mulhouse. Today Mr Krasnicqi and another man are also facing kidnap charges.

"Of course, I would rather have avoided the abduction, but I was facing a complete dead end. Here and in Germany, the authorities were just hoping the case could be conveniently forgotten. I had to do something," said Mr Bamberski.

At the start of this month, he got further good news when a Paris court determined that Mr Krombach could indeed face trial - despite the conditions of his detention. The judges based their decision on other suspects who have been smuggled into France from abroad, such as the Nazi Klaus Barbie and the terrorist Carlos the Jackal.

Mr Krombach's lawyers, on the other hand, say there is now the risk of a serious miscarriage of justice.

"The way this affair has been covered in France is shocking," Mr Levano told the BBC. "Of course it is heart-breaking for Mr Bamberski, but only one side of the story has been told.

"Naturally Mr Krombach protests his innocence. But that's not even the point. My client was cleared of guilt in his own country. He was then kidnapped and taken illegally to another European country, where he is now going to be tried for murder.

"Only in France could that possibly be allowed to happen."

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