Fa­ther gives up hope of get­ting an­swers about son’s death in Malta

● Mike Man­sholt was found dead in July 2016

Malta Independent - - FRONT PAGE - Al­bert Galea

The fa­ther of Mike Man­sholt, a Ger­man teenager who died in Malta in 2016, has given up hope of get­ting an­swers about his son’s death from Mal­tese au­thor­i­ties, telling Ger­man news­pa­per Die Welt that he has done all that he could do.

Mike Man­sholt was 17 at the time of his death, in July 2016. He was on hol­i­day in Malta; the first time he was on hol­i­day with­out his par­ents. On 18 July he left the ho­tel he was stay­ing at on his rented bi­cy­cle and never re­turned. His life­less body was found at the foot of Dingli Cliffs on 26 July, four days af­ter he was re­ported miss­ing when he failed to re­turn home from his hol­i­day.

An in­quiry into the teenager’s death was com­mis­sioned; but in many senses it has pre­sented more questions than an­swers. Top Ger­man news­pa­per Die Welt pub­lished an in depth story about the case on Thurs­day, speak­ing about the in­ves­ti­ga­tions and speak­ing with the teenager’s fa­ther; Berndt Man­sholt.

It was ini­tially said that Mike Man­sholt had died from a fall, hav­ing plunged 29 me­tres to his death from the cliffs above. One doc­tor had even said at the scene that “the dead man’s back has been bro­ken twice”. How­ever, when Berndt Man­sholt vis­ited the morgue some days later, a staff mem­ber took him aside and whis­pered, un­of­fi­cially, that there were no frac­tures. In­deed, both Mal­tese and Ger­man au­top­sies found no ev­i­dence of a fall. Fur­ther­more, the dam­age on his bi­cy­cle was not com­pat­i­ble with that of a fall from that height. The bi­cy­cle only had a rear punc­ture and a mis­aligned seat. In­stead, the cause of death re­mains a mys­tery.

There are fur­ther questions; Mike’s be­long­ings were never found. Mike’s gray back­pack, his Sam­sung Galaxy phone, his wal­let, his bank card, a few hun­dred eu­ros in cash, his straw hat, his power bank and, most of all, his GoPro cam­era were all not found.

The big­gest mys­tery of all how­ever is the state in which Mike’s body was re­turned to Ger­many. His fam­ily took it to the Med­i­cal Univer­sity of Han­nover for a sec­ond au­topsy, but the Ger­man med­i­cal ex­perts found a body that had not been em­balmed. Fur­ther­more, the only or­gans found inside were Mike Man­sholt’s left kid­ney, the di­aphragm, the spleen and the large in­tes­tine. In the end, the fam­ily buried Mike at sea. His body weighed only 32 kilo­grams.

Die Welt spoke to Mike’s fa­ther who spoke of the lengths he went to try and find an­swers about his son’s death. Berndt Man­sholt told the news­pa­per of his dis­ap­point­ment at how the Mal­tese au­thor­i­ties han­dled the case, and flags a num­ber of in­con­sis­ten­cies that have yet to be answered.

He spoke of how the lead in­ves­ti­ga­tor on site in­sisted with him that Mike’s GoPro had been found, but he was later given an an­ti­quated Canon cam­era back in­stead. At the site, he says how he was told that it was prob­a­bly a tourist who stole the bag, as Mal­tese did not do these kinds of acts.

He made men­tion of how Mario Scerri, the Mal­tese foren­sic spe­cial­ist who con­ducted the au­topsy, told him that Mike’s or­gans had been eaten by ro­dents and his brain had liq­ue­fied, but then that Ger­man spe­cial­ists found no ev­i­dence what­so­ever of any bites on the body and said that if the brain had liq­ue­fied there would have been rem­nants of it.

Berndt Man­sholt said that the Ger­man au­thor­i­ties could not ex­clude third party force in his son’s death. Whilst they could ex­clude death by blunt force trauma or a pro­jec­tile, they could not ex­clude acts such as suf­fo­ca­tion or internal bleed­ing due to the state in which the body had ar­rived. The hy­oid bone for in­stance, which can help de­ter­mine whether some­one was stran­gled, was also miss­ing.

He also pointed out to the Ger­man news­pa­per that to date there is no con­vinc­ing proof that the place where Mike’s body was discovered is also the place where he died, whilst also making ref­er­ence to the fact that it felt like Mal­tese au­thor­i­ties were “pur­posely” not giv­ing him the full pic­ture. He said that the re­port that he first re­ceived from Malta was “dis­ap­point­ing” as it lacked key in­for­ma­tion such as the in­for­ma­tion from the au­topsy and all the pho­tos from the scene it­self as well. The in­for­ma­tion given to him – over a year af­ter Mike’s body was found – was only that re­lat­ing to the day that the corpse was discovered.

It was only in April 2018 that Berndt re­ceived the full file, af­ter the case it­self was re-opened in Jan­uary of the same year. He told Die Welt that the in­quiry reaches the same con­clu­sion it had reached be­fore; that Mike prob­a­bly died from a fall. The Ger­man pros­e­cu­tor work­ing the case sep­a­rately comes to a sim­i­lar con­clu­sion, say­ing it could have been that the teenager’s fall was bro­ken by trees and that he slid down off them into his fi­nal rest­ing po­si­tion. How­ever the Ger­man pros­e­cu­tor dif­fers with the Mal­tese find­ings in the sense that it says that it is ob­vi­ous that the teenager’s or­gans were in place when he was found. This to­tally con­tra­dicts what Mal­tese ex­perts said about this mat­ter, that the or­gans were eaten away by ro­dents.

Die Welt at­tempted to make con­tact with au­thor­i­ties about the case, but were met with lit­tle to no re­sponse. The Mal­tese foren­sic spe­cial­ist, Mario Scerri, re­mained silent and pointed to other pas­sages, the news­pa­per said, whilst the po­lice­woman whom Man­sholt had been in con­tact with ig­nored all questions en­tirely. Questions sent to the Po­lice were re­ferred to the At­tor­ney Gen­eral, who “showed lit­tle will­ing­ness to re­ply.”

The Of­fice of the Prime Min­is­ter also held sim­i­lar lev­els of will­ing­ness when sent questions, the Ger­man news­pa­per said. It was only af­ter two and a half months that the po­lice replied, telling Die Welt that there is “no doubt about the fair­ness, in­de­pen­dence and ob­jec­tiv­ity of the in­ves­ti­ga­tions”.

Berndt Man­sholt mean­while sold his gold­smith busi­ness and rented out his house in Olden­burg. He was sick of be­ing known in his home­town as “the man with the dead boy”, and in­stead is now sail­ing the Mediter­ranean with his new wife and three chil­dren in the hope that he can put his life back to­gether. In this sense, hav­ing buried Mike at sea, his child is al­ways close to him as he sails the seas, hop­ing that the past two years slide into the very waves that he is sail­ing.

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