Malta Independent

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

● Mike Mansholt was found dead in July 2016

- 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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