Two parents were searching for their missing 23-year-old daughter in Germany when they came across a grisly discovery - her parked car with a dead woman in the back seat.
They called the authorities and watched as the body of their daughter was removed from the car.
Except it wasn’t their daughter - it turned out to be another woman, who looked extremely like her.
And their daughter was suspected of murdering her - potentially to fake her own death, police and prosecutors say.
The case of the German Iraqi woman living in the southern city of Ingolstadt, named as Shahraban K. by German newspaper Bild, has shocked many in Germany. Her parents had traveled from Munich to Ingolstadt to find her after she stopped answering their calls - and found her car and the body on Aug. 16.
Police began investigating and issued an initial statement about a homicide, saying it appeared the woman had been the “victim of a violent crime.” But doubts quickly emerged about her identity as DNA and fingerprint evidence from the victim did not match that of the missing woman, and as police heard “rumors” that the missing woman had been seen driving around the local area, police spokesperson Andreas Aichele said in an interview.
A day later, police determined “completely new circumstances” in the course of their investigation and arrested the missing 23-year-old, alongside a 23-year-old Kosovan man, on suspicion of homicide, police said in a statement.
The victim has been named in German media as Algerian Khadija O, also 23, whom investigators say looked “strikingly similar” to the missing woman.
At the time, authorities did not give a motive for the killing.
Now they believe that the suspects came up with a plan to find someone who could pass for the young woman, “who wanted to go into hiding because of a family dispute” and therefore decided to fake her own death, according to a statement released by the prosecutor Monday.
Police say they believe that the suspect “chatted with several young women” who looked similar to her online and attempted to lure them into a meeting through false promises.
On Aug. 16, the two suspects traveled to the Heilbronn area, in the neighboring state of Baden-Württemberg, to pick up the victim from her home, police said. They then took her to a wooded area and stabbed her multiple times before driving back to Ingolstadt, where they left the body in the back of the vehicle.
While the two suspects, now 24, have been in custody since August on suspicion of homicide, a district court issued arrest warrants late last week for them in relation to the more serious crime of murder, which carries a life sentence.
The investigation is ongoing.