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Germany

Darmstadt murder victim choked 'till the last breath'

A witness has told a Darmstadt court that a murdered woman had suffered frequent abuse at home. He says she had been choked multiple times before the night she died. The 19-year-old's parents are accused of killing her.

The victim's mother was the focus again on the third day of proceedings against a couple accused of

murdering their 19-year-old daughter

.

"For me, the mother is the main suspect," the victim's boyfriend, now a 25-year-old student, told the Darmstadt Regional Court on Friday.

The mood in the courtroom was noticeably edgier than it had been on the first day of the trial. Questions were repeated again and again, even if witnesses had answered them just minutes earlier. Defense lawyers and the bench locked horns repeatedly, until one of the lawyers lost his cool and let fly an expletive. The audience in the packed courtroom murmured; the presiding judge demanded an apology. The victim's boyfriend appeared unimpressed by the public display. When the defense attorney accused him of "bla-bla," the witness stared him down and said in a sharp tone: "What is that supposed to mean? 'Bla-bla?' Speak German to me."

Since the beginning of the trial, witnesses have focused on the 19-year-old's mother, whose aggression was emphasized by the victim's sister. The boyfriend corroborated that on Friday. According to the charges against her parents, the woman was strangled to death by her father because she had maintained an intimate relationship with the young man and refused to stop seeing him. The relationship did not fit the strict religious values of the girl's parents, who immigrated to Germany from Pakistan. Prosecutors accuse the mother of planning the murder of her daughter with her husband, and of having helped him dispose of the body. At the outset of the trial, defense attorneys had argued that the woman was oppressed by her husband and was forced to follow his orders. They still maintain that she had nothing to do with the girl's murder, but that she was forced to help him get rid of the body.

Constant supervision

"She hit her," the victim's boyfriend told the court. He reported that the 19-year-old was constantly watched and controlled by her mother. "When she had a break at school, she had to spend half an hour in town with her mother," he said. That is why the mother came into Darmstadt every day on the bus from the neighborhood that the family lived in until the crime took place. The daughter had to show up during her breaks. "If she got out of school at 4, she had to be home by 4:15 at the latest," the victim's boyfriend said. The mother insisted upon it. The mother also tortured the victim physically and psychologically. The victim's sister spoke of corporal punishment during her testimony. "She didn't even get anything to eat," the girl's boyfriend told the court on Friday. It was punishment, because the mother found out about the daughter's relationship. He said his girlfriend had told him that her mother "took away all of her clothes and shoes" while she was in the shower: "She only had two or three things, and she had to wash them by hand."

He said "the father always tried to re-establish contact in the beginning, but the mother did everything she could to hinder it." Still, he said, his girlfriend had told him her father had also laid hands on her: "Once, when she wanted to leave the apartment, her parents stood in front of the door." He said she told him that her father grabbed her by the throat and choked her "until the last breath" while her mother stood by and did nothing.

According to the charges, the father was also the one who finally entered the girl's bedroom in January, put his hands on her throat and choked her to death. The man admitted to this at the start of the trial, and DNA traces found on the girl's body and under her fingernails seem to substantiate that fact. According to the testimony of a molecular biologist, the DNA was from a man as well as another woman. The victim's sister was not at home at the time of the crime. The molecular biologist, however, does not want to speculate whether the DNA traces on the body are from the mother, or, if so, how they might have gotten there. "In a familial situation, those kinds of traces could have gotten onto the body in any number of ways," the expert said.

The student said he could never have imagined that his girlfriend's parents might kill her. The couple had wanted to marry: "That was very clear for the two of us." During morning testimony, the student's father said he had approved of the young couple's plans. "Although I have two older children that were supposed to marry first," the taxi driver said. He also said that the couple's congregation was trying to push him into hosting a big ceremony and that he simply didn't have the money for it.

The trial continues.

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