It was like a film, or a nightmare, the victim told the court in Würzburg, Bavaria.
Last September, amid the growing so-called “killer clown” craze that swept across the US and into Europe, the woman had been fast asleep in her home on a Sunday evening. Her husband and three children were also in bed.
The doorbell rang at about 11.45pm, resonating throughout the house. When the mother answered the door, two women in horror masks screamed loudly while jumping around in the front yard, one with a sandbox toy in her hand. A third woman was filming the events.
“It was really dumb, and I am really sorry,” said one of the young women on Wednesday in court.
The group said they were bored and wanted to have some fun. But it was anything but entertaining for the family. The mother has since then been suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), feeling more easily excitable, with sleep disturbances and panic attacks.
Her husband told the court that she can no longer perform some everyday tasks.
The two young women - 18 and 20 at the time - were convicted of aggravated bodily harm for scaring the woman, and were sentenced to pay the victim compensation amounting to several hundred euros. The older of the pair must also spend a week in juvenile detention due to her prior criminal record, while the second young woman must perform 80 hours of community service.
The third young woman who filmed is having her case handled separately.
The killer clown craze started in the United States around last Halloween with reports of people dressed up as clowns, scaring strangers sometimes with what appeared to be weapons. Videos of real or staged encounters with these “clowns” were widely shared online.
It eventually spread to Europe and Germany, where in one particularly violent case, a teenage boy attempting to scare his friend was stabbed by the person he tried to startle in Berlin.
National and state authorities, including the German Interior Minister, started speaking out against the killer clown reports, calling for zero tolerance.
The judge in the case in Würzburg said that the actions of the young women were in no way harmless.
“Imagine an old person coming to the window,” the judge said, explaining that heart attacks due to fright are possible in old age. “That is not a joke.”
The young women had also not initially shown understanding of what they had done, the victim had argued. A few days later, they had coincidentally met their victim in the city, and made fun of her. She said this made what happened worse.
“I wished that you would have apologized and not retaliated,” the woman said.
The older of the two on trial on Wednesday has since expressed regret, apologizing multiple times to the victim, while her friend however remained seemingly apathetic and silent.
“They are indeed of legal age,” said the judge to the pair, “but they must still learn how to be adults.”