Berlin ″freezer″ murderer sentenced to life | News | DW | 18.04.2018
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Berlin "freezer" murderer sentenced to life

A German man has been sentenced in Berlin to life in prison for killing a pensioner back in 2006 and storing the dismembered body in a freezer. The defendant subsequently collected the victim's pension for several years.

Defendant hides his face during Berlin murder trial (picture-alliance/dpa)

Defendant Josef S. had kept his face hidden throughout the trial

A Berlin regional court on Wednesday sentenced a 56-year-old man to life in prison, finding him guilty of killing a retiree and keeping the dismembered body in a freezer for some 11 years.

The court found that the defendant, a second-hand goods dealer identified as Josef S., shot the 80-year-old Heinz N. in the old man's apartment around the end of 2006, before dismembering the body and placing it in a freezer bought for that purpose.

The defendant then went on to fraudulently claim the victim's €2,000-a-month ($2,500) pension for around 11 years, until the body was discovered by police early last year.

Authorities discovered the corpse in his apartment after the victim's neighbor reported that he had not been seen for years.

'Motivated by greed'

Berlin judge Peter Schuster described Josef S.'s actions as "murder motivated by greed." Schuster sentenced the defendant to life in prison, which in Germany generally constitutes a minimum of 15 years. The judge also denied the defense's appeal for early parole, pointing to the severity of the crime.

Read more: German retirement system leads to pensioner poverty

The prosecution described the murder as one of the "cruelest, most disturbing and most terrible crimes to have taken place in Berlin in recent years."

The case sparked a national debate over the vulnerability and isolation many of Germany's pensioners suffer, especially in larger cities.

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A pattern of behavior?

Josef S. denied the murder until the very last, arguing that the lonely pensioner had committed suicide. He did admit, however, to cutting up the body and collecting the pension money, claiming it went towards financing his gambling addiction.

However, three experts told the court during the trial that Heinz N. could almost certainly not have committed suicide, given the position of the gunshot wounds.

Schuster also based his verdict on the fact that Josef S. was found to have also been pocketing the pension of another elderly woman, identified as Irma K., who had lived in his building before disappearing without a trace in 2002.

Read more: Police: Man accused of murdering Berlin pensioner may have killed second victim

Authorities found that he had been receiving the elderly seamstress' pension of around €900-per-month right up until his arrest in January 2017.

"The chamber is convinced that Mrs. K is dead," Schuster said, suggesting that Josef S. may know what had happened to her.

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dm/rc (dpa, AFP, AP)

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