To date, no one really knows what happened to Kirk von Ackermann's personal effects. News articles mention his lap top, satellite phone and $40,000 were found in his car. But nothing is known about his clothes or any personal items he may have had with him in Iraq - nothing was ever returned to his family.
Now it's possible early investigators filed things away or that maybe his colleagues were too busy to deal with a box kicking around their offices, or maybe his things just got tossed out along the way. It's certainly easy to assume that whatever overnight bag might have held von Ackermann's toothbrush and clean socks just got lost in the shuffle during the early days of the investigation into his disappearance.
But what if von Ackermann's personal effects were never inside of his abandoned vehicle on the day it was found? And what does the absence of those items say about how von Ackermann intended to spend that day?
The source for Colin Freeman's first article - who we later learn was Ryan Manelick - told Freeman that von Ackermann was on a 'day trip.'
Excerpt from Civilian Vanishes in Iraq
"Kirk was on a day trip from Kirkuk to Tikrit that day and was coming back when he rang one of the company's Iraqi employees around 3 p.m. to say he had a flat tire and couldn't get it fixed with the jack he had. He was stopped right on top of a road that runs over a small range of hills ... at the time.Kirk von Ackermann certainly could have left his belongings somewhere in Kirkuk expecting to return to them at the end of the day. But where? While Ultra Services listed an 'office' in Kirkuk on its company website, von Ackermann is said to have called and left a message for his family the night before saying he was sleeping that night at a base. Ultra Services' offices were said to do double duty as apartments so why stay at a local base instead of the area office?
A quick look at the options of what could have happened to an overnight bag:
1. with von Ackermann in his vehicleContinuing on.
2. at the base - likely in the contracting officer's office
3. at Ultra Services' office
4. at an other unknown location
According to Ryan Manelick - Kirk von Ackermann was returning from Tikrit to Kirkuk - but if the source of the information in Daniel Halpern's article was accurate, there was a side trip to FOB Pacesetter much further south near Balad. (Note: FOB Pacesetter was later renamed FOB McMenzie.)
Simply put, Kirk von Ackermann's itinerary on October 9: Kirkuk to Tikrit to FOB Pacesetter near Balad then returning back to Tikrit to Kirkuk. And meanwhile, somewhere along the way he is also believed to have picked up a Nissan Patrol SUV with a bad tire of which von Ackermann was aware.
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Excerpt from Death of a Contractor
On October 9th, not long after he and Phillips tried to take half of Ultra Services from Dawkins and create a rival company, Kirk von Ackermann visited FOB McKenzie, a U.S. forward operating base near Samarra. After meeting with a Turkish subcontractor, he left the base behind the wheel of his Nissan Patrol SUV. He was alone.Logic says, keep an overnight bag close at hand as, with all travel, something might come up especially during a roughly 8 hour journey covering 300 miles round trip. In a region where travel could be interrupted for a variety of reasons, such as closed roads due to ongoing searches for Saddam Hussein, a contractor would be well-advised to be prepared.
Now back to the question I first posed...what if von Ackermann's overnight bag was never in his vehicle? Suddenly von Ackermann's movements and intentions that day are much less clear. So, below is another look at trying to construct a time line which is an admittedly rather hopeless project.
Timeline - version II
A conservative estimate based on drive time of 2.5 hours between Tikrit and Kirkuk, averaging 40 miles an hour, a one-hour meeting and backing into approximate times based on the news report of a 3:00 pm phone call.
Leaves guest quarters in Kirkuk
Arrive FOB Pacesetter
Leaves FOB Pacesetter
Employee receives phone call
Check point report
Moonrise (99% full moon)
Curfew Starts in Tikrit area
The Missing Notebook (image)
June 11, 2008
Time Line - Work in Progress (table)
April 27, 2008
Sun, Moon, Weather Data (graphic)
March 17, 2008
FOB Pacesetter (satellite image, photo & maps)
December 26, 2007