Nov 16, 2023

Murder of a four-year-old boy in Hanau: Life imprisonment for suspected cult leader

"Unimaginable, terrible and appalling" 
November 15, 2023

Google Translated 

In a courtroom, a woman in a gray coat is led into the dock by two judicial sergeants.

A suspected cult leader has been sentenced to life in prison for the murder of a little boy in Hanau. The crime happened more than 35 years ago.

The verdict in the murder trial of a 76-year-old alleged cult leader was handed down before the Frankfurt regional court on Wednesday. The woman was sentenced to life in prison for murder. The court found it proven that in 1988 he had put a four-year-old boy in a sack in which the child suffocated. The presiding judge said she acted for base motives.

The woman was sentenced to life imprisonment by the Hanau Regional Court three years ago. But due to legal errors, the Federal Court of Justice ordered a new hearing.

Prosecutors pleaded murder
In the new trial, the prosecution had also called for a sentence of life imprisonment for murder in its plea. The Frankfurt prosecutor said the defendant's motive was at the lowest moral level: the woman was "incredibly angry" at the then four-year-old boy, who symbolized "evil" for her and with whom she had waged a power struggle.

The defendant is said to have led a cult more than 35 years ago at the time of the crime; four-year-old Jan was the son of cult members. According to the public prosecutor's office, on their instructions, he was put in a sack for his afternoon nap, which was tied at the top - as was the case on August 17, 1988.

On that day, the boy is said to have screamed particularly violently and ultimately died of carbon dioxide poisoning in the sack. The emergency doctor noted at the time that the boy had choked on vomit.

The circumstances of the death could probably have been clarified back then, but there was a “failure of the state organs,” as the judge said. The police investigated sloppily and the public prosecutor did not order an autopsy. The investigation was stopped just one day after Jan's death. The perpetrator and her followers wisely did not tell anyone that the boy had died in a sack.

"Unimaginable, terrible and appalling"

The way the children were treated in the sect was “unimaginable, terrible and appalling,” said the presiding judge when announcing the verdict. The now 76-year-old has no ability to empathize. He read from her diaries, in which she had called the little boy, among other things, a "power sadist pig", "a mean sadist" and a "cold and mean show weapon". 

Because the boy resisted her, the punishments for him were draconian. Not only that the boy was beaten. If he didn't eat fast enough, food would be stuffed into his mouth. He had to sit on the potty for hours.

If he wet himself, he was given a cold shower. He spent many nights alone on a mattress in a small bathroom. He couldn't move; he was stuffed up to his neck in a cotton sack.

Diary provides clues to the motive for the crime
The judge cited the woman's fear of the boy starting school as the motive for the crime; she had noted this several times in her diaries. In this case, his poor physical and mental condition would have been noticed and questions would have been asked.

"You have now been certified by ten judges that your power-sadistic behavior towards Jan in combination with your callous reaction to his death can be classified as murder," he explained to the defendant.

Defense demands acquittal
The defense of the alleged cult leader had pleaded for acquittal. She was the victim of a campaign and public agitation, said one of the 76-year-old's two lawyers in his plea. He accused the investigators of “blind zeal.”

The events on the day of the four-year-old boy's death were not clearly clear and there were contradictory statements, the defense said. The cause of death can no longer be determined. It is also unclear whether the boy was completely or only up to his neck in the bag during his afternoon nap on that day in August 1988.

In his response, the public prosecutor described the plea as "unimaginative" and several statements were incorrect. The defendant hated the boy because he defended himself against her.

Defendant complains of “character assassination”
In her closing statement, which lasted almost two hours, the defendant spoke of a “character assassination”. Attempts are being made to make her “a monster,” but she has done nothing. The material of the bag in which the boy died was "thin and full of holes." He had nothing to do with the child's death, but was "just to protect him."

The defendant's statements were repeatedly reminiscent of a sermon - as was the case at the beginning of the trial . There was often talk of “the old man,” her name for God, whose mouthpiece she sees herself as. He tells her his messages about dreams.

Process reopened

For decades, authorities had assumed it was an accident until statements from cult dropouts shed new light on the case in 2015. Jan's remains were supposed to be taken out of the grave and examined, but they were no longer there. Where they stayed is unknown. “It shakes me,” said the judge.

In September 2020, the Hanau regional court imposed a life sentence on the woman for murder with base motives.

But the Federal Court of Justice overturned the verdict in the course of the appeal : the defendant's culpability was not sufficiently examined, it said. In addition, information about an intention to commit a crime was missing. The BGH referred the matter to the Frankfurt Regional Court for a new hearing .

The report assumes culpability
Another psychiatric report was commissioned for the new trial, which, like the previous one, assumed that the defendant was fully culpable.

There was a separate trial against the boy's mother last year: the Hanau regional court acquitted her of the murder charge .,urteil-sektenprozess-100.html

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