“It gets under your skin”

Silence has settled over Grefrath like a veil. In the already tranquil town on the Lower Rhine, there is hardly a person on the street on this Friday morning. In these minutes, police and prosecutors are informing the public about how ten-year-old Mirco was victimized almost five months ago by Olaf H. became.

People in Grefrath want to know how this tragedy came about. They stay at home – in front of the TV. Several broadcasters broadcast the statements of the head of the "Mirco" task force, Ingo Thiel.

Speechless Manfred Fernbach sits in front of the TV in his electrical store. Thiel is talking about the confessed perpetrator right now. The 45-year-old suspected murderer of Mirco is said to have been a devoted family man. "The man seems to be sick," is Fernbach’s first reaction. He himself is a multiple father and grandfather. It is completely incomprehensible that the man from the nearby Schwalmtal should have done such a deed. "It gets under your skin," says Fernbach in a weak voice.

Even if the horror about the crime of Olaf H. is not as great as it seems. In Grefrath, the thoughts of the people here also revolve around the family of the perpetrator. "How are the man’s children ever going to be happy again?" asks Fernbach. His daughter sits next to him. But she does not give him an answer. Their silence is an expression of grief and lack of composure.

"What goes on in such a head"
A small vegetable stall is set up just a few meters from the electrical store. The market woman talks to a couple about the new findings in the Mirco case. Asked about the confessed perpetrator, the saleswoman gets angry. "I just can’t imagine what goes on in someone’s head like that," she says. She does not even want to think about what Mirco’s family has gone through in the last few months.

A passerby directs the conversation to the family of Olaf H.: "You can’t really go on living around here anymore. That is simply not possible. Too much has happened for that." The fate of victim and perpetrator family touches people in Grefrath in equal measure.

School mourns Mir
Nevertheless, normal school business prevails at the Grefrather school center on this Friday, even if the case Mirco is naturally also a topic here. The then ten-year-old went to the community high school. A flag now flies at half-mast at the entrance to the school grounds. In the classes, the teachers talk to their students about the sad certainty that Mirco is dead.

Even though the perpetrator has been caught and is in custody, many parents are still picking up their children from school. That’s how they’ve been doing it for the past 145 days, ever since Mirco disappeared. "This feeling of uncertainty and fear will be remembered for a long time," says a mother as her nine-year-old daughter climbs into the car.

When Mirco disappeared at the beginning of September, many people from Grefrath came together in the Catholic parish church for a joint church service. Now that the boy’s death has become a certainty, there will probably be a memorial service next week. Then family, friends, relatives and all Grefrather can mourn together and say goodbye to the boy.

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