BERLIN -- German police said yesterday they rescued a 13-year-old girl and arrested a former convict accused of kidnapping and sexually abusing her after they followed up on a note the child managed to drop outside the man's apartment begging for help.
The girl's handwritten note was found by a man near trash containers in the neighborhood where she was held for five weeks only about a half-mile from her home. In it, the girl begged the finder to alert police and included the address where she was being held and the name of her kidnapper.
Christian Avenarius, a spokesman for city prosecutors, said the note read ''this is no joke" and ''it's a matter of life and death."
The girl vanished Jan. 11 on her way to school in Dresden in eastern Germany, and despite widespread searches, police said they had no concrete clues until a man came to them Wednesday with a white scrap of paper with ''HELP, HELP" scrawled on it in bright red letters.
Police said the victim had been sexually abused during her kidnapping.
''From what we can tell so far, he kept her in a crate for a while with a gag in her mouth, which he then bound shut," Avenarius said.
The suspect, whose name was not immediately released, was charged with sexually assaulting a minor and kidnapping.
The girl dropped several notes when she was taken out of the apartment by her abductor as he walked his dogs, police said, but she was too afraid to call for help or escape.
Police did not identify the man who found the note.
''We are very thankful to the person who found this note and took it seriously and immediately alerted us," investigator Sonja Kruessel said.
The girl was reunited with her family and she was receiving psychological help, Kruessel said.
The 35-year-old suspect was a previous offender who had served more than three years in prison for abusing a minor in 1999.