The 41-year-old Danish man, identified only as Peter R., had taken his daughters, aged nine and ten, on holiday to Germany in August 2011, when the judge Frank Tiemann said “resentment and jealousy” towards his ex-wife drove him to kill them both.
He stopped his car in the woods in Brandenburg, sedated the children with sleeping pills, strapped them into the back seat and doused the car in petrol before setting it alight, Potsdam district court heard.
Although he was initially in the car, Peter R. got out at the last minute and was found severely burned, staggering into the road. He was taken to a specialist burns unit in Berlin.
His lawyer argued for a manslaughter conviction, saying Peter R. had been planning to kill himself along with his daughters, but the judge convicted him of murder in light of what he said had been considerable planning. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison – which in Germany is the statutory life term unless a convict is considered to present a continued danger to the public.
Tiemann said that because Peter R. had clearly made the effort to buy sleeping pills to sedate the girls and filled up several canisters of petrol, it could not have been a spontaneous decision.
The Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper reported on Thursday that the Dane had been fighting with his ex-wife about custody of their children. He told the court that he had “killed them out of love as they should not have to live a life without him.”
Psychologists instead deemed him to have a “narcissistic personality disorder.”