The 34-year-old defendant identified as Peter J. built a bomb disguised as a Christmas letter intending to harm the girl's parents – his sister and her husband. According to the district court's verdict, he placed it in the mailbox at the family's home in Berlin's Rudow district with the knowledge that it could be deadly.
But his niece, Charlyn, found the letter first on her way home from school and nearly lost her arm in the ensuing explosion. She also suffered severe burns and spent almost two months in the hospital in an artificial coma and undergoing several surgeries.
J. later placed a bomb in his brother-in-law's car, but it did not go off. Police searched for 11 days before arresting the suspect.
“It was an act of revenge,” judge Angelika Dietrich. “It was practically a miracle Charlyn wasn't killed.”
While a life sentence for attempted murder is relatively seldom, the court said the crime was “unusually grave.”
Peter J.'s lawyers argued that he had not meant to hurt the girl, unsuccessfully pleading for a bodily harm sentence instead.
The defendant apologised for the crime during the proceedings, though the family was not present.
“I can't make it better again,” he said.