On a cold November night last year, police discovered a fire in an underpass in the inner city of Cologne, the Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) reports. Only upon closer inspection did they realize that there was a body within the flames.
A medic called to the scene could only confirm the death.
Further investigations revealed that the man had regularly slept in the underpass, and that two other homeless people were responsible for his murder.
Both of the culprits were sentenced to seven years and six months in jail on Tuesday by the state court in Cologne. The sentence went further than the punishment called for by prosecutors.
The culprits kicked their victim to death, aiming at his head and stomach, the court heard. They then burned him to try to eradicate the evidence.
The defendants claimed they had acted in self-defence, saying the victim had sexually assaulted the woman.
According to the SZ, violence against and among homeless people has been increasing in recent years.
A report by the Federation for the Support of the Homeless (BAGW) published in January found that 17 homeless people were killed in Germany in 2016, and that there were a further 128 cases of violent assault.
In one case that made national headlines in December, a group of young refugees set fire to the belongings of a sleeping homeless man in a Berlin metro station. The main culprit was sentenced to two years and nine months in prison earlier this month.