Failed internet romance a German media sensation

German woman Maja Gille in Dunedin this week. Photo from Otago Images.
German woman Maja Gille in Dunedin this week. Photo from Otago Images.
German news agencies are scrambling for details of the failed internet romance of a German woman and a Dunedin man after it was discovered the woman is the daughter of a celebrated German painter.

It is understood the woman, Maja Gille (36), is the daughter of Sighard Gille (68), a former student of the New Leipzig School of Painters and known for his colourful figurative works.

A leading artist of the former East Germany in the 1970s, he completed Europe's biggest contemporary ceiling fresco, the 714sq m, 32m long Song of Life in Leipzig's Gewandhaus in 1980 and 1981.

His website says he is now an art professor at the Academy of Visual Art in Leipzig.

Sunday newspapers from New Zealand and Germany, German television channels and magazines have contacted the Otago Daily Times seeking photos and information, while more than 100 stories have already appeared in German newspapers on the incident.

Detective Senior Sergeant Steve Mc-Gregor said Dunedin police had declined numerous requests for information and interviews.

Ms Gille, a drama teacher, musician and part-time social worker from Leipzig, left New Zealand on Wednesday to return to Leipzig, after spending a week with Dunedin man Peter Robb, whom she befriended on the internet in October.

Her intention in visiting New Zealand was to meet Mr Robb and try to make some contacts so that she might return with her small daughter to work here.

However, when she arrived it was immediately clear Mr Robb (54) was not the 33-year-old PhD student she had expected to collect her.

She spent several days with Mr Robb in his Garfield Ave, Roslyn, home, which she described as a filthy "horror house" where the unemployed man kept chickens inside, before going on a three-day trip with him to Kaikoura.

The armed offenders squad searched Mr Robb's home on Saturday after a man she had met on the plane to New Zealand contacted police, concerned for her safety, following several unusual communications from Ms Gille.

She said Mr Robb had made it difficult for her to leave and the more she learned about him the more scared she became about his "unusual" behaviour, she said.

While she acknowledged she had opportunities to leave during her visit, she said she did not have enough money to pay for other accommodation and did not know where she would go.

She warned other tourists of the dangers of meeting, in person, people previously only contacted over the internet.

Mr Robb, who was excluded from the University of Otago in 2007 after a similar incident with a Brazilian student, has posted images taken on Wednesday, the day Ms Gille flew out of Dunedin, on one of his myspace pages.

The images show his car, and planes leaving and landing at Dunedin International Airport.

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