Transcript: 111. The Bizarre Death of Mike Mansholt | Malta

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Susanne and her daughter Maria were waiting in the arrivals lounge at Bremen airport. They were excited that 17-year-old Mike was coming home from his holiday in Malta. This was the first time he had gone on holiday without his family, and they had missed him a lot.

They watched as crowds of passengers arrived and left with loved ones. Surely Mike would be right behind them… But as time went by, and arriving travellers came through the gate in trickles, they grew concerned. Susanne tried to be a voice of reason and stay calm for Maria’s sake, as well as her own. They hoped that somehow there had been a misunderstanding about the time and date, so they tried calling his cell phone, but it wasn’t on.

They learnt that Mike’s connecting flight in Frankfurt, LH360, had been delayed, so at least that explained why he wasn’t there. It was strange that Mike’s phone was off and that he hadn’t called to inform them. It was unlike him NOT to be in touch. Eventually, the announcement came that the flight from Frankfurt had been cancelled.

What did that mean? Where was Mike? They tried calling repeatedly, but after many hours, they still only got his voicemail. Again, Susanne tried to reason her way through the situation: maybe he had decided to take a train home instead and lost his charger or his phone. Perhaps Mike, who was always punctual and organized, let slip for once. He was, after all, only 17 years old and on holiday…

Yet, his mother couldn’t help but feel that something wasn’t right. She informed her ex-husband, Mike’s father about the situation. He was in Croatia at the time and shared her concern: Mike would have let them know if there had been a change of plans.

In the early morning hours of July 23rd, Susanne and Maria went to their local police station in Oldenburg to report Mike missing. The officer on duty entered Mike’s details and his last known location into the online system. To his surprise, he discovered that police in Malta were also looking for Mike. He had been missing for four days.

Mike’s dad, Bernd, immediately made his way to the island of Malta, together with Mike’s older brother Daniel. They were about to embark on a search for answers but only came up with more questions. Questions that still remain unanswered four years later. This is the story, of the mysterious circumstances surrounding the death, of German teenager, Mike Mansholt.

>>Intro Music

Mike Mansholt was a middle child, his older brother was Daniel and his sister Maria. Parents, Bernd and Susanne, had Daniel when they were young and waited a while before completing their family – so the age gap between Mike and his big brother was about 11 years. Bernd Mansholt, a goldsmith from the northern German city of Oldenburg, was an adventurer through and through.

When Mike was 5 years old, Bernd and Susanne decided to embark on the trip of a lifetime. They purchased a yacht, and the family set off to sail around the world. The boat was called Nis Randers, after a poem by Otto Ernst. From the North Sea, they went along the coast of France in the Bay of Biscay to the Canary Islands from where they pushed ahead to the Caribbean. They spent a good time in the Pacific and returned home after 774 days.

This trip instilled a deep sense of wanderlust in Mike, who was always eager to get out and see more of the world. Bernd loved travelling with his son, and together they went to Canada and Alaska. As Bernd was a goldsmith, he’d always wanted to go panning for gold, so it was a dream come true. They did more than gold panning though. It was an extreme challenge, as they canoed 400km on the Yukon River before mountain biking the ‘Top-of-the-world-Highway’ from Dawson to Alaska.

In 2016, Mike was 17 years old, and he was training for yet another travel-and-endurance trip with his dad. This time, they were planning to go to Iceland, where they were going to compete in their first-ever marathon together – for Mike’s 18th birthday.

Despite all his travels and training, Mike never let slip with his school work – in fact, he graduated first in his class. But he always knew that he’d choose a career to make him happy, not necessarily wealthy. Bernd took Mike with him when he flew model aeroplanes, and Mike was sold: he decided to become an Aeronautical engineer – building airplanes.  

Along with hundreds of other applicants, Mike applied for an apprenticeship at Airbus. It was a strict vetting process, but in the end, Mike was the one who was offered the coveted position. He had finished school, he was on his way to start his dream career, and life could not be better for Mike.

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~ Now, back to today’s episode ~

In July 2016, during his summer vacation, Mike left his home in Oldenburg for the Mediterranean island of Malta. It was his first holiday without his parents. His dad Bernd wasn’t overly-concerned, as Mike had travelled around the world, he quite literally grew up travelling. He knew about the dangers and pitfalls and how to avoid them. Mike was also reliable – he always showed up and called when he said he would. He was a responsible young man, ready to take on the world. Bernd recalled saying this to Mike before he left:

“Man, my first trip was a bike-ride to camp in the neighbouring village. You’re flying to Malta. What’s next? Mars?”

Malta is an independent island nation, where locals speak both Maltese and English. It became independent from Britain in 1964 and attained its republic status a decade later. The island nation is located south from Sicily, about an hour and a half away by ferry. 250 miles to the south of Malta is the north African coastline. An archipelago of three islands makes up the country: Malta (the largest) and two smaller islands; Gozo and Comino.

It’s a dry climate with jagged white cliffs plunging into indigo waters below. Sun-drenched, historic villages charm tourists who come to visit one of the best ‘sea-and-sun’ destinations in the world. Colourful fishing boats dot the harbours of the capital, Valetta. Everywhere you look, is postcard perfect.

Malta is one of the smallest nations in the world, measuring no more than 316 square kilometres (that’s 122 square miles). Spread across the three islands,

436,000 residents live there. Everyone in Malta seems to own a car, which makes for interesting traffic conditions and parking options.

But it’s not only tourists who flock to Malta. Because Malta is a tax haven, many companies have offices on the island. Journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia wrote a series of articles named the ‘Malta Files’ in the Panama Papers. Her reports revealed corruption within the government and served as open criticism of the island country’s leaders. She also shone a light on Malta’s gambling industry and organised crime. Shortly after publication, Daphne was killed in a car bomb. The president’s chief of staff and a prominent businessman were arrested with regards to Daphne’s murder, but locals believe more people were involved.

Daphne’s son, also a journalist, calls Malta a “…money laundering swamp” and calls out the “culture of impunity.” Tourists can appreciate the history, natural beauty and warm climate of this Mediterranean paradise. But there is a dark underbelly that lurks beneath the idyllic façade.  

Young Mike Mansholt’s reason for visiting Malta was love. His girlfriend from Oldenburg had been doing a language course on the island, and he went to see her. Mike arrived on July 8th and spent about a week with his girlfriend. On the 17th of July, as planned, she left to go back to Germany. Mike stayed on and went off on his own to explore the island for a couple of days before heading home himself. He stayed at the Astra, a small hotel located in Sliema, on the east side of the island.

Being an adventurer, Mike was looking for some kind of challenge. He was in top shape, as he was training for the marathon in Iceland. His GoPro action camera was always on his person, and Mike was a budding videographer and photographer. He had a good eye to capture rare and beautiful moments, while recording himself climbing, canoeing or cycling.

When Mike didn’t arrive at 10:15pm at Bremen airport as planned, his mother and sister knew something was wrong. Whenever they tried to call him, it went straight to voicemail. His connecting flight from Frankfurt had been cancelled, but he actually never arrived in Frankfurt. It was a stressful and confusing situation as they tried to figure out the best way to track down Mike’s location.

Mike’s father, Bernd, was vacationing in Croatia when his ex-wife informed him about the situation. He made arrangements to get back to Oldenburg as soon as possible. Meanwhile, Mike’s mom had the ominous feeling that Mike was in trouble and at 2am in the morning, she went to police in Oldenburg to report him missing. As the officer on duty entered Mike’s details onto the system, they learnt that Mike had been missing in Malta for four days. When he did not return a rented bicycle, his disappearance was brought to the attention of local authorities. Police in Malta were searching for him but had not found any information about his whereabouts. The case was reported straight to the Bundeskriminalamt (that is, the German Federal Criminal Police Office, BKA).

Mike’s parents were outraged that they had not been informed. Desperate for answers, Bernd decided to go to Malta himself, to help in the search for his son. Mike’s mom, Susanne, gave police photos of Mike, his bank account details, his cell phone number… Anything that could help.

German investigators at the BKA were able to establish that Mike did not leave Malta on another flight. There was no sign of Mike, the bike or any of his belongings. With no sign of Mike, the Maltese police decided to expand their search to the neighbouring islands of Gozo, Kuncizzjoni, Imtahleb and San Blas. They contacted ferry services, but there was still no further information.

Maltese police tried to reconstruct a timeline of Mike’s disappearance. CCTV cameras at the hotel Astra caught his last moments as he left the hotel. On the morning of the 18th of July, Mike came out of his hotel room number 105 at 8:39am. He was wearing a blue T-shirt, had a dark backpack flung over his shoulder, his cell phone was in his hand. A half an hour later he returned, presumably after having breakfast on the roof terrace. Back in his room, Mike called reception and asked for the bill. Then he left his hotel room again at five minutes to ten and made his way down to the harbour, where he hired a bike for two days. It was a Lombardo 270, with a light frame, ideal for cycling the steep hills of the island.

He sent a message to his girlfriend using WhatsApp shortly after 10 in the morning, telling her that he planned to rent a bike and said:

“…the roads are so steep – I’ll send a photo. You can only climb up in some parts, you can’t get up there with a bike. It’s a sporting challenge, and I like it.”

This was the last message anyone received from Mike.

Investigators were able to establish that Mike spent his day sightseeing. His first stop was at the ancient Roman catacombs in Rabat, about 17 kilometres from Sliema. Did he go missing somewhere on the way back?

Bernd Mansholt and Mike’s brother Daniel crisscrossed the island, looking for Mike themselves. Everyone in Malta knew about the search for the missing German teenager, but no one had seen him. Then a curious call came… An in-patient at a local hospital called authorities to tell them that he had seen Mike in hospital. However, as it turned out, the man was hallucinating because of hospital-administered drugs. Mike had never been admitted to the hospital.

Another witness came forward and said that Mike was at the Tiger Bar, a spot known for drug-trafficking. No one could corroborate the sighting so police, as well as Mike’s family, felt that it was a false lead.

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~ Now, back to today’s episode ~

Eight days after he was last seen alive, on the 26th of July 2016, police received an anonymous tip, saying that there was a body at the bottom of the Dingli Cliffs. Malta has many rugged rockfaces and this one, at 250 meters, is the highest on the island. Located outside the village of Dingli along the west coast of Malta, this imposing landmark is a popular vantage point from where tourists enjoy the views.

Bernd went to the scene and watched on grimly as his son’s body was recovered. Mike was lying on a rock hollow, somewhat sheltered by the overhanging ledge. Passers-by on the road above would not have been able to see him. It looked like Mike had fallen from a rock 29 meters above. His sneakers and sunglasses were near the body, and the bicycle was halfway up the hill. The seat faced sideways, and the back wheel was flat. Other than that, apart for some scratches, it was intact. There was no sign of his backpack or his cell phone.

Temperatures rose to about 35 degrees Celcius during the days after Mike’s disappearance. His body had been lying in the blistering sun for eight days and could not be identified. Because of the bike and Mike’s shoes and sunglasses, the assumption was of course, that it was Mike. DNA tests would later confirm that it was.  

Bernd Mansholt was told by one of the doctors at the scene that the deceased’s back had been broken in two places. He would have died quickly, and at least they knew he hadn’t suffered. Yet, when his autopsy had been completed, the cause of death was stated to be: ‘Unascertained’.

It was a terribly confusing time for the family, as they weren’t sure how Mike had died. The logical assumption was that it was an accident, that somehow, while cycling, Mike lost control of the bike and fell off the cliff. Back in Oldenburg, Mike’s mom was overcome with shock and grief, and in the aftermath, she preferred to stay out of the media. However, she followed the investigation with Bernd.

Almost two weeks after Mike’s body was found, on the 8th of August, someone working at the morgue pulled Bernd aside and told him that there were no fractures on Mike’s body. The woman whispered and said that she was providing the information ‘off the record’. What did that even mean? Why all the cloak and dagger? A 17-year-old boy had died, surely all information regarding his autopsy should be ON the record.

Bernd told the lead investigator about his visit to the morgue, but she didn’t seem interested. At this point, Bernd’s underlying suspicions rose: was there more to his son’s death than he was being told? He realised that if he was ever going to find out the truth, he’d have to launch his own investigation. The deeper Bernd looked into his son’s case, the more he realised that the Maltese authorities had not done a thorough investigation at all.

Something puzzled Bernd about the scene where his son’s body was discovered. Next to the body was freshly cut grass. It seemed out of place, especially next to a decaying body. Bernd questioned the farmer who owned the adjacent land, but he did not know anything about the grass. Bernd also asked the man if he had seen Mike’s backpack and the man’s reaction made Bernd uneasy, he looked as if he knew something but didn’t want to say anything.

Bernd reported this conversation to the lead investigator, but she did not think it was significant.

Another thing that didn’t make sense to Bernd was the fact that Mike’s GoPro was missing. Initially, the lead investigator told Bernd that it was on Mike’s belt when he was found. This is where he always had it, people who had met him during his time on Malta all confirmed that Mike usually had his GoPro in a clip on his belt. If it was recording while Mike was cycling, perhaps it captured his last moments…

Yet, when Bernd asked police about the GoPro later on, they didn’t know what he was talking about. He reminded her that she said there had been a ‘black case’ on Mike’s belt, she said it to Bernd in front of witnesses. The investigator denied ever having said anything of the sort.

When the forensic team was done, Bernd was given all of his son’s belongings. Among it was a Canon Camera with a damaged memory card. Mike never owned a Canon, this was NOT his. Were investigators so desperate to get Bernd off their backs that they handed him another camera? Mike’s everyday belongings, like his Samsung Galaxy Phone, which he used to send his last WhatsApp message, his wallet with cards and 600 EUROS in cash and his backpack never surfaced.

Because of this, Bernd’s distrust of Maltese police intensified. He felt alone in trying to find out what happened to his son. It wasn’t that the police were incompetent, there was something else – why weren’t they playing open cards with him? What were they hiding?

Police became agitated when confronted by Bernd about Mike’s missing belongings. They were adamant that Maltese people don’t steal and that, if it was gone, it was most likely taken by tourists. Bernd didn’t care who took it, he just wanted answers.

Bernd’s time in Malta came to an end, and he returned to Oldenburg. His son’s body arrived in Bremen on August 17th and was sent to a funeral home to prepare Mike’s body for his memorial service. It would have been Mike’s 18th birthday. He was supposed to run the Reykjavik Marathon on that day. Instead, his body was in a casket.

It was the mortician who raised serious concerns to police in Oldenburg. When he first received the coffin containing Mike’s body from Malta, it seemed light for someone of Mike’s age and height. He also noticed the smell of some preservation chemicals, but could not detect any signs that the body had been embalmed. This was a significant oversight, especially because Mike’s body had been repatriated. For hygiene reasons, extra measures of preservation are required BEFORE sending a body home.

On closer inspection, the funeral director made another unsettling discovery. Most of Mike’s organs had been removed – including his brain, his heart, lungs, stomach and small intestine and one kidney. The organs that remained were partially damaged. His right kidney and spleen, for instance, were both fragmented. His partial body only weighed 16 kilos, that is 35 pounds.

Bernd, who must have been appalled at receiving this information, undertook the grim task of writing a letter to Maltese authorities and the forensic department at Mater Dei hospital, asking them to send the missing organs to Germany.

Mario Scerri, a respected forensic doctor, informed Bernd that the organs were missing before the first autopsy. He said that it had been consumed by rodents. His statements vary, sometimes he says mice, other times rats. His best guess to explain the absence of the brain was that it had liquified.

It is perhaps useful to explain briefly, what the typical procedure is during an autopsy. After the external examination (looking at clothing, the skin, apparent bruises or abrasions) a Y-incision is made to open up the chest and abdomen. Organs are examined in place before they are removed. Each organ is removed, weighed and measured, and samples are taken. Only in some cases will the brain be removed via an excision in the back of the head. After the examination, the organs are placed back in place, and the body is sewn up and washed.

So, if Mike’s body had been adequately examined, all of his body parts must have been placed back into his body before he was sent to Germany. If organs were missing, one would expect a forensic doctor to make a note to inform the funeral director—something to inform them of the situation, seeing as it was rather unusual.

This had become an international legal matter, and Oldenburg prosecutor’s office took possession of Mike’s body. He was sent to the forensics lab at the University of Hanover for a second post mortem examination. German pathologists found no injuries on Mike’s body that would be consistent with falling off a cliff. What the morgue employee in Malta told Bernd in confidence, had been confirmed: there were no fractures or superficial injuries – not one broken bone in his whole body. Falling 29 meters down a jagged cliff face, one would expect to see some cuts or abrasions, but Mike had none.

As for the Maltese forensic doctor’s statement about rodents eating Mike’s organs… German forensic scientists clearly stated that there were no bite marks anywhere on the body. His skull was not broken, and there were no signs of blunt force trauma. They also disagree with the hypothesis that the brain had liquified, seeing as there were NO remnants left whatsoever.

Possible causes of Mike’s death could have been due to internal bleeding, but with most of his organs missing, that was impossible to conclude. Another option was strangulation seeing as his hyoid bone was gone too. This is usually an indication that someone had been strangled. Again, with the absence of organs, that was impossible to determine. In the end, the German forensic examination could also not say how Mike had died.

Foul play could not be ruled out. Mike’s death was ruled a criminal case, and the German investigation into Mike’s death kicked off. From the start, the BKA noted that there were many inconsistencies in the investigation in Malta.

Investigators had to consider all possibilities, looking at all the information they had access to. Starting from scratch: they were looking at the death of a young man with a full and happy life. Mike was looking forward to the future and had no reason to end his own life.

How his body was found was not consistent with someone who had jumped off the cliff above. After a brief pause to consider suicide, investigators were able to rule it out, without any uncertainty. They also ruled out the possibility that he had gone over the cliff’s edge by accident. If this was the case, his bike would have been in closer proximity to his body.

The route Mike took that day, is one that is popular with cyclists. He knew it would be a challenge, but was up for it. Bear in mind, he had been training for a marathon, so he was in good shape. He was a competent rider and had no illusions about what he was taking on.

One theory was that Mike was the victim of a hit-and-run incident. That a car had knocked him over, killing him. Realising what had happened, the driver, possibly with the help of a passenger, carried Mike’s body down the cliff, to hide him. They also discarded of the bike and took Mike’s backpack and GoPro, in an attempt to conceal evidence. If this was the case, Mike could have died from internal bleeding. But without being able to examine his organs, it was impossible to make this assumption. Also, Mike had not suffered any fractures, which means it was unlikely that he had been hit by a car.

Another hypothesis, considered by investigators, was that Mike was hit by a stray bullet. Dingli Cliffs are one of few places in Malta where bird hunters go. According to Hunters of Europe, FACE:

“Hunting opportunities in Malta are extremely limited and as always, rely exclusively on the migration of birds.”

Because of this, hunting is only permitted in spring and autumn. Mike died in the middle of summer. Besides, 2015 and 2016 were marked as two progressive years in terms of preservation, with bird trapping becoming more popular than shooting. Of course, all it takes to be an accident is one stray bullet fired by one person who decided to ignore permit rules, but Mike’s body did not have any bullet wounds.

Some people speculated that Mike’s death occurred because of a robbery gone wrong. Perhaps someone saw the young tourist, travelling by himself with many valuables on his person and realised he would be an easy target. However, if this was the case, it probably meant that the robber or robbers would have had to disable Mike. Yet, his body had no apparent signs of a struggle. If he had been hit somewhere on his abdomen, causing internal bleeding, again, without his organs, it was impossible to prove.

Probably the darkest possibility that had to be explored was that Mike, a young and healthy young man, had fallen victim to organ traffickers. If you consider the implication of this theory… It meant that Mike would have been taken to another location, a place that served as an operating room. His organs would have been removed in a sterile environment, from where it would have been distributed. Mike’s captors would have dumped his body at the bottom of Dingli Cliffs, and placed his bike and shoes where they were found.

Malta is not listed as a hot spot for organ trafficking, but it doesn’t mean it is impossible. The closest hub for this dreadful crime is in Egypt, which isn’t exactly around the corner. No cases of organ trafficking in Malta has ever been reported – not a single one. Neither Maltese nor German investigators considered that this is what happened to Mike. The location of his body convinced them that he most likely died where he was found.

The most plausible theory is that Mike approached the cliff from the bottom and loaded the light-framed bike onto his shoulders before climbing up. The cliff is not a vertical rockface, it has parts where one can walk up a steep path. Some parts would have been challenging to navigate, especially if he were carrying a bike. It is possible, with many loose rocks and stones, that Mike lost his footing, fell and was immobilised by an injury. It was a hot summer’s day, and he was exposed to severe heat for hours. Exhausted after the physically trying climb, he likely suffered from heatstroke. Dehydrated and injured, one can assume that he abandoned the bike and made his way to the spot under the rock ledge, looking for shade. He took off his shoes in an attempt to cool down.

This is a plausible circumstantial story, but it does raise questions: if he had the presence of mind to look for shade and take off his shoes, why did he not use his cell phone to call for help? Also, where was his backpack? If he had overexerted himself, surely he would have clung on to his bag, knowing that the phone and money would help him – perhaps to get a taxi back to the hotel, or buy water at the very least.

Back in Germnay, September 4th 2016, two weeks after his 18th birthday, Mike’s ashes were scattered into the ocean. His family felt that this is what Mike would have wanted, and this way, whenever they go sailing, it feels like Mike is with them somehow.

Bernd, has come to a conclusion that, contrary to Maltese law enforcement’s belief, Mike did not die of an accident and SOMEONE knows what happened to him. Mike’s killer probably took his backpack, knowing that he had a large sum of money with him. Bernd firmly believes, that – if it had been an accident – if Mike had fallen off his bike down the cliff, his backpack and would have been with him.

Maltese authorities concluded that Mike’s death was a tragic accident, nothing more. And despite many requests in the months that followed, they refused to reopen the case.

Bernd had many questions haunting him… He found it strange that police didn’t try harder to reveal the identity of the anonymous caller who told them where Mike’s body was. Why did the person choose to remain anonymous? Was he or she Mike’s killer? Or was it a local that simply didn’t want to get involved. Perhaps it was a petty thief, who stole Mike’s belongings from the scene where a deceased Mike laid? Did they realise that they had seen Mike after hearing news reports about the missing German tourist? Did this person want to avoid being caught for theft?

Bernd also struggled to get the grisly concept of organ harvesting out of his mind. He had grown suspicious of Maltese authorities and had the constant feeling they were hiding something. They were adamant that Malta had not ever had ONE single case of organ trafficking, but was this perhaps a dark secret, a sinister problem that they needed to keep quiet? In the end, Bernd Mansholt was able to exclude the organ trafficking theory and does not believe that this is why his son lost his life.

Bernd returned to Malta on several occasions, trying to solve the mystery of his son’s death. In November 2017, he confronted the lead investigator and forensic doctor in Mike’s case. Bernd had a list of questions and needed answers. According to Bernd, he did not receive one straight answer to any of them. In fact, after a futile conversation, the investigator asked him when he was planning to leave the island.

Through the ensuing years, Bernd Mansholt kept up the fight to gain full access to his son’s case file. The Maltese ambassador in Berlin has also been approached about the situation. The next day, a file arrived at the German foreign ministry, but the information was incomplete — it contained only an image of the cliffside and some basic information. The most comprehensive information was the spatial analysis. It stipulates the horizontal and vertical distances of Dingli Cliffs in relation to where Mike’s body was found. It is comprehensive, but sadly, not overly relevant because the scene was not exactly in question. What it did prove was that Mike could NOT have jumped off the cliff above, as his body would not have been under the ledge.

The file from Malta contained no autopsy report or eyewitness statements. Even though it is customary to document every step of a post mortem examination, taking photos. None of this was included in the report. In fact, there was nothing new for Bernd or German investigators to explore.

One piece of evidence that Bernd was desperate to find was proof that Mike had his GoPro on his belt when he was found, as the detective told Bernd on the day. Bernd recalled crime scene photographers taking loads of photos of Mike’s body and the surrounding area. The question about the GoPro could be answered looking at those photos. But none of that was included in the file.

At the end of January 2018, Mike’s case was reopened in Malta. Local newspaper The Times of Malta picked up the story and questioned the oversights in the initial investigation. Four months into the second investigation, in April 2018, Bernd Mansholt finally received the complete 200-page case file on Mike’s death.

When the investigation concluded the second time, the presiding judge in Malta came to the same conclusion once more: Mike’s death was the result of a tragic accident. He had fallen off the cliff.

However, through their office in Rome, German intelligence, BKA, gathered information proving that, when Mike’s body was found, he was lying on his back. This was the final, conclusive proof that Mike did not jump, fall or was thrown off the cliff above. He either died at the scene or was placed there.

Despite disagreeing with the outcome of the first investigation, the German public prosecutor’s office came to a similar conclusion. They believe that Mike did, in fact, fall off the cliff. The trees and shrubs slowed him down to a point where he slid down to the spot where he was eventually found. Then he possibly died due to exposure.

It seems that both countries’ authorities opted to take the easy way out: they couldn’t say exactly how Mike died, so it HAD to be an accident. Strangely, the second investigation stated that when the body was found, the organs were still in place. This contradicts the rodent story. So which one is true?

After countless hours, pouring over every detail in the case, Bernd Mansholt has his own theory. He believes that Maltese forensic doctors are at fault. Mario Scerri, an award-winning forensic scientist, has been heard boasting about how quickly he could rush through an autopsy. On YouTube, one can find a video of him proudly saying that he had completed the autopsies of 29 refugees who had washed-up on Malta’s shores, in three days.

Bernd believes that Scerri did a rush job of Mike’s post mortem examination and failed to put his organs back in place afterwards. He then either discarded  the organs or gave them to the local university for research purposes. Refusing to admit his blunder, Scerri came up with the story that rodents consumed the organs at the scene.

Remember the journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia who was killed in a car bomb after her explosive articles? She also wrote an article, saying that Labour MP, a medical doctor called Etienne Grech, had admitted to taking organs from the morgue in Valetta to study at home when he was a pre-grad in medical school.

This could explain what happened to Mike’s organs, but there is still a dark question mark that hangs over his death. How did he die? Bernd Mansholt has put out a reward of 10,000 EUROS for any information that could answer this question. The same amount is offered for Mike’s backpack, his phone and his GoPro.

The Mansholt family had a plaque erected at Dingli Cliffs, in Mike’s memory. It says:

“Mike Mansholt – You are loved and missed.”

Bernd has since remarried and has two children from his second marriage. He still loves sailing, and he has closed his shop in Oldenburg – as he was tired of being known as the goldsmith whose son had died. Sadly, he had to make peace with the fact that he will probably never know what happened to Mike on Malta, and more puzzling, what happened to his organs…

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