West German police who are part of a nationwide dragnet for the killers of a prominent banker are carrying pictures in their patrol cars of four suspects - three women and a man.
The ration of female to male suspects reflects a puzzling phenomenon in this law-and-ordered-minded country: the starting number of women who not only are member of violent anarchist movements but also are committing murder.
Almost half of the more than 5 most-wanted terrorists in West Germany are women, a number that Munich University's chief criminologist. Prof. Horst Schueller-Springorum says "is far beyond the average participation of women in crime generally."
No one can say for certain why this has happened. Despite the trouble they have caused, the terrorists remain small in number, so statistics, case histories and psychological analyses are limited.
Other industrialized countries with terrorist problems have been slow to react to the rise of the female terrorist, and West Germany, the Munich professor believes, has been among the slowest even though the trend was becoming clear years ago. Ten of the 16 leading members of the notorious Baader-Meinhof urban guerilla gang that terrorized this country in the late 1960 and early 1970s were women.
German women took part in the murder of a West Berlin judge in 1974, and the slaying of two diplmats in an attack on the West German embassy in Stockholm in 1975. In the terrorist attack on the OPEC oil producers meeting in Vienna the same year it was a denim-skirted German who fired the shots that killed an Austrian guard, one of three presons who were slain.
Last year, aircraft hijacking hostages rescued in the Israel raide at Entebbe said a German woman among the hijackers was more cruel than the men.
This year, a German woman shot a policeman seeking to question her about the slaying in April of Chief Federal Prosecutor Siegfried Buback. Thus, it is not surprising that among the chief suspects in last week's killing of banker Juergen Ponto are Susanne Albrecht, 26, and two females accomplices.
"We still can offer only theories at this point," says Schueler Springorum. But he agrees with Prof, Hans Schneider, criminologist at the university of Muenster, who says, "Maybe we are paying the price a little bit for having such a male-dominated society."
As Schneider points out, many female terrorists have similar background, coming from middle or upper-class homes and being well-educated.
Susanne Albrecht is the daughter of a lawyer who was friend of the murdered banker's family. Another suspected terrorist is the daughter of a well-known clergyman. One is a lawyer. Others are students and former teachers.
Many of West Germany's female terrorists, Schneider says, are people who have what he calls "deficiencies in thei socialization process." They are often more out of touch with realily than male terrorists and as a result some become even more fanatical extremists.
"In German society," Schneider says, "it is the boys that are confronted with this socialization process - exposureto and dealing with political issues in school and in the family. But the females in Germany are generally unpolitical and they are treated that way. When they get into contact with male terrorists, they can be more easily influenced ideologically and they become fanatic because they have not had the basic contact with political issues that males have. They overcompensate, playing the role sharply contrasting to the stil very much housewife-oriented German female population."
The strict and conservative atmospher of the homes in which many terrorists were reared, adds Schueler-Springorum, produces more strain on females because they usually are under tighter restrictions.
"As they meet people who espuse radical theories that the world needs to be turned upside down, they expect greater freedom from that," he says.
Even in the universities, Schneider says, women have an artificial relationship to political issues.
"There is a kind of an identity crisis as a female student in Germany, he says. "They concentrated in female roles, such as teachers. It is an extension of the housewife role. The majority of my students are sort of educated housewives. But it is very important for them to have good social contact, and females get isolated and some can't take it as well as males - socialization."
But there is no certain explanation for the step from political radicalism to murder.
Some criminologists say that a few male terrorists and extremist lawyers in West Germany have had the fanatical devotion of female gang members who would obey commands that some men would not.
Shueler-Springorum makes that observation, too, but he also thinks the change from radical to killer needs far more investigations.
"Maybe it's because of drugs, or that they admire someone else in the movemnet," he says. "Or maybe it's because they see violence in society as a perogative of males and ask, "Why shouldn't we participate?" The answer would probably vary greatly from woman to woman."