Tuesday. 25.06.2024

A 73-year-old German religious cult leader has been sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of a four-year-old boy, 30 years after she tied him up in a sack, leaving him to suffocate and die in a bathroom.

"You consider yourself godlike," the presiding judge Peter Grassmueck told the woman, who he said was at the centre of a personality cult. She was not named due to Germany's strict privacy laws.

"A child does not belong to the parents, but the old man determines when a child should be taken away," Grassmueck said the women had written in her diary. The "old man" is God, he said. 

She had described the boy as being "possessed by evil" and representing the rebirth of Hitler, Grassmueck told the court in the western German city of Hanau. 

At the time of his death in August 1988, the boy had become a disturbing element in the household that was dominated by the accused, Grassmueck said in a judgement read out to the court. 

"His death was not only accepted, but in our view it was also wanted," he said. 

The child's parents were supposed to work, to help the group economically, while the 73-year-old looked after the boy, and supervised the children of other members of the group.

"Supervision, let us say indoctrination, was her task," said the judge. 

The defendant herself also had two biological children, three adopted children and at that time four foster children also lived in the household. 

All of them have now turned away from her and testified against her in the proceedings.

Normally developed child

The court heard that the murdered boy had been a completely normally developed child at his birth. At the age of two, he was partly placed in the care of the defendant.

However, he grew very thin and hardly gained any weight. By that time, he had to sleep in a sack in the bathroom.

"It was you who gave the order to tie the sack over his head," said the judge. The defendant then also closed the windows and door.

The court also severely criticised the parents of the murdered boy, saying they had left the child with the accused, knowing he was obviously neglected and exposed to violence.

In the trial, however, the boy's mother said the 73-year-old had given her support. "She is like a sister and good friend to me," she said.

The accused showed little sign of emotion when the judgement was handed down, only shaking her head gently several times.

Before the verdict was announced, she read a book and looked at photos.

She even placed sweets on the desk of one of her defence lawyers. A warrant for her arrest has now been issued. Her lawyers said she planned to appeal the verdict.

Cult leader sentenced to life for murder of 'possessed' child