A 23-year-old German-Iraqi woman sought out a lookalike on Instagram and murdered her with a friend in order to fake her own death, prosecutors in Bavaria believe.
When the blood-covered body of a young woman was found last August in a parked Mercedes in Ingolstadt, southern Germany, reports initially identified the victim as Sharaban K, a Munich-based 23-year-old beautician with Iraqi roots.
Even though some members of Sharaban K’s family had identified the body, an autopsy report the next day raised questions over its identity. The victim was eventually named as Khadidja O, an Algerian beauty blogger from Heilbronn in the neighbouring state of Baden-Württemberg, also 23.
With long black straight hair, a similar complexion and heavy makeup, the two women looked “strikingly alike”, police said, leading the German press to refer to the case as the “doppelganger murder”.
Along with a 23-year-old Kosovan, named as Sheqir K, Sharaban K was detained on remand by Bavarian police on 19 August 2022, though authorities did not publicly speculate about a motive until this week. The victims and accused have been referred to by their first names and an initial as is customary in the German legal system.
“Investigations have led us to assume that the accused wanted to go into hiding because of a family dispute and fake her own death to that effect,” Veronika Grieser of the Ingolstadt state prosecutor’s office said on Monday morning.
Police say several women bearing her resemblance had been contacted by Sharaban K, operating on social media sites under numerous aliases, in the week before the murder. “By making various promises she tried to bring about meetings, which was initially unsuccessful,” Grieser said.
But Khadidja O had agreed to meet, lured by what Süddeutsche Zeitung reported to be a cosmetics offer. By car, Sheqir K and Sharaban K allegedly picked her up from her apartment on the day of the murder. In a stretch of woodland between Heilbronn and Ingolstadt the accused pair are alleged to have made up a pretext for the Algerian woman to step outside the vehicle and stabbed her to death.
“The crime weapon has not been found, but the evidence is overwhelming,” a police spokesperson, Andreas Aichele, told the tabloid Bild. “The victim was killed with over 50 thrusts of the knife, the face completely disfigured.”
Prosecutors allege the pair then lifted the victim on the backseat of their Mercedes and drove to Ingolstadt, parking the car in a quiet residential area by the banks of the Danube, where it was discovered by Sharaban K’s parents shortly before midnight on 16 August 2022.
Though investigations were ongoing and further witnesses were still to be interviewed, arrest warrants against Sheqir K and Sharaban K were issued on 26 and 27 January, the spokesperson for the Ingolstadt prosecutor said. The pair face life sentences if convicted.
“You don’t get a case like this every day, especially with such a spectacular twist,” Aichele told Bild. “On the day we found the body there was nothing to prepare us for this development.”