American tattooist admits Berlin axe killing

A US tattoo artist who chopped up another tattooist with an axe could be locked up for life as a German court heard on Monday that he killed with "particular savagery."

American tattooist admits Berlin axe killing
Photo: DPA

The 30-year-old New Yorker identified only as James B., had only been living in Berlin for about six months when he got into a drunken argument with an Austrian tattooist.

“He first hit the man straight in the face with an axe, damaging his skull and cutting through his nose and mouth,” Tobias Kaehne, spokesman for the Berlin District Court, told The Local.

“Because he killed him with particular savagery, the usual sentencing limit of 15 years for murder could be extended to life.”

Forensic detectives found at least 52 injuries on the Austrian Raoul Schmidhuber’s body, after it had been recovered in pieces from the Spree River and the Schäfer Lake in and around the German capital. The cause of death was drowning – in his own blood.

The first parts – wrapped in plastic bags and weighed down with training weights – were found just a day after the killing, floating in the river in the Kreuzberg district of Berlin. Over the following week the rest of the body was found, with the head the last to be recovered from the lake.

“The victim was covered in tattoos so it was easy to identify him – and he had been reported missing too,” said Kaehne.

Police then received an anonymous tip that Schmidhuber had been seen with the American the day before he went missing.

Officers questioning James B. said he admitted having killed the man, but did not elaborate on why they had argued.

He also admitted the killing in court on Monday, Kaehne said.

The judge dismissed charges against the American’s German girlfriend for trying to hinder the hunt for her man. She was also to some extent a victim of her boyfriend, said Kaehne.

She had left her flat when the two men were arguing, only to find the dismembered body on the floor when she returned, and terrified for her own safety, had then helped to dispose of the head, he said.

She had already spent more than five months in investigative custody, and the court said she could go free if she paid €1,000 to a charity.

The case continues.

The Local/hc

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Driver in Bavaria gets €5,000 fine for giving the finger to speed camera

A driver in Passau has been hit with a €5,000 fine because he was caught by traffic police giving the middle finger.

Driver in Bavaria gets €5,000 fine for giving the finger to speed camera

The district court of Passau sentenced the 53-year-old motorist to the fine after he was caught making the rude gesture in the direction of the speedometer last August on the A3 near the Donautal Ost service area, reported German media. 

The man was not caught speeding, however. According to traffic police who were in the speed camera vehicle at the time, another driver who had overtaken the 53-year-old was over the speed limit. 

When analysing the photo, the officers discovered the slower driver’s middle finger gesture and filed a criminal complaint.

The driver initially filed an objection against a penalty order, and the case dragged on for several months. However, he then accepted the complaint. He was sentenced to 50 ‘unit fines’ of €100 on two counts of insulting behaviour, amounting to €5,000.

READ ALSO: The German rules of the road that are hard to get your head around

In a letter to police, the man said he regretted the incident and apologised. 

Police said it was “not a petty offence”, and that the sentence could have been “even more drastic”.

People who give insults while driving can face a prison sentences of up to a year.

“Depending on the nature and manner of the incident or in the case of persons with a previous conviction, even a custodial sentence without parole may be considered for an insult,” police in Passau said. 

What does the law say?

Showing the middle finger to another road user in road traffic is an offence in Germany under Section 185 of the Criminal Code (StGB). It’s punishable by a prison sentence of up to one year or a fine.

People can file a complaint if someone shows them the middle finger in road traffic, but it usually only has a chance of success if witnesses can prove that it happened.

As well as the middle finger, it can also be an offence to verbally insult someone. 

READ ALSO: The German road signs that confuse foreigners