Child murderer awarded damages for police threat

A German court on Thursday awarded more than €3,000 ($4,265) in damages to a child murderer over a threat by police to inflict "unimaginable pain" if he did not reveal his victim's whereabouts.

Child murderer awarded damages for police threat
Photo: DPA

In a ruling that sparked outrage, the regional court in the state of Hesse found that the “human dignity” of Magnus Gäfgen had been violated during questioning in 2002 over the disappearance of a banker’s 11-year-old son.

The police believed at the time that the abducted child, Jakob von Metzler, could still be alive after his parents paid a €1-million ransom to Gäfgen.

It emerged later that the boy, whose family owns one of Germany’s oldest private banks, was already dead at the time of the interrogation. Gäfgen was convicted in 2003 of murder and sentenced to life in prison.

In awarding Gäfgen €3,000 plus interest, presiding judge Christoph Hefter said the killer had been the victim of “serious rights violations” that could not be rectified under German law without the payment of compensation.

“With this ruling, it is entirely insignificant and may not be considered that the plaintiff committed a crime,” he said. “Human dignity may not be denied to a person, even if this is difficult in light of the crime the plaintiff committed.”

Gäfgen, 36, had demanded €10,000 for pain and suffering as well as other damages, saying he had been threatened with “torture” and was still suffering from psychological trauma.

The policeman who questioned him and his senior officer were convicted in 2004 and fined but their sentences were suspended.

The European Court of Human Rights had last year ruled that Gäfgen had been subjected to “inhumane treatment.”

During his trial, Gäfgen confessed that he had abducted Jakob, whose family controls the Metzler private bank in Frankfurt, on September 27, 2002, as the boy made his way home from school.

Gäfgen, who was known to the Metzler family, described how he lured the boy to his flat and then bound his mouth and nose with adhesive bandages.

When the boy stopped moving after Gäfgen pushed on his face with his hands, he immersed the child in water in a bathtub to ensure that he was dead.

The Metzlers paid the ransom demanded by Gäfgen, but their son’s body was recovered from a pond near Frankfurt four days after he disappeared. Most of the money was later found at Gäfgen’s home.

The case attracted intense media coverage and ahead of the ruling the top-selling daily Bild splashed the headline across its front page Thursday: “Damages for a Child Murderer? Judge, stop this!” with a picture of Hefter.

The GdP police union said the judgement was “emotionally very difficult to endure” and argued that officers must be able to use tough interrogation methods in situations in which lives are believed to be at stake.

“Neither torture nor even the threat of torture are instruments at the disposal of a police force operating under the rule of law,” union chief Bernhard Witthaut said in a statement.

“But family members, as well as all citizens, have a right to expect that the police will try to question an alleged murderer to such an extent that the potential victim can at least be found quickly, if not rescued.”

The interior affairs spokesman for the ruling Christian Democratic Union, Wolfgang Bosbach, slammed the verdict as “a slap in the face for the parents and relatives of the victim Jakob von Metzler.”


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Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

The German government says it is in talks over further compensation for victims of the attack on the Munich Olympics, as the 50th anniversary of the atrocity approaches.

Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

Ahead of the commemoration in September, relatives of the Israelis killed have indicated they are unhappy with what Germany is offering.

“Conversations based on trust are taking place with representatives of the victims’ families,” a German interior ministry spokesman told AFP when asked about the negotiations.

He did not specify who would benefit or how much money had been earmarked, saying only that any package would “again” be financed by the federal government, the state of Bavaria and the city of Munich.

On September 5th, 1972, eight gunmen broke into the Israeli team’s flat at the Olympic village, shooting dead two and taking nine Israelis hostage, threatening to kill them unless 232 Palestinian prisoners were released.

West German police responded with a bungled rescue operation in which all nine hostages were killed, along with five of the eight hostage-takers and a police officer.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists  held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Horst Ossingert

The spokeswoman for the victims’ families, Ankie Spitzer, told the German media group RND that the amount currently on the table was “insulting” and threatened a boycott of this year’s commemorations.

She said Berlin was offering a total of €10 million including around €4.5 million already provided in compensation between 1972 and 2002 — an amount she said did not correspond to international standards. 

“We are angry and disappointed,” said Spitzer, the widow of fencing coach Andre Spitzer who was killed in the attack. “We never wanted to talk publicly about money but now we are forced to.”

RND reported that the German and Israeli governments would like to see an accord by August 15th.

The interior ministry spokesman said that beyond compensation, Germany intended to use the anniversary for fresh “historical appraisal, remembrance and recognition”.

He said this would include the formation of a commission of German and Israeli historians to “comprehensively” establish what happened “from the perspective of the year 2022”.

This would lead to “an offer of further acts of acknowledgement of the relatives of the victims of the attack” and the “grave consequences” they suffered.