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Germany

Foster Father Convicted in Child Abuse Death

A drug addict who beat and neglected a two-year-old boy in his care was jailed Thursday for 10 years by a court in Bremen, two years after the boy's mutilated body was found in a refrigerator.

Bernd K. hides his face

Kevin's foster father hides his face in court

A court in the northern German city of Bremen on Thursday, June 5, found the 43-year-old father, identified as Bernd K., guilty of abuse and bodily harm that led to the death of a two-year-old boy he was caring for. Judges ordered him to begin his prison term in a detoxification centre to break his heroin habit.

State prosecutors had sought a murder conviction and a 13-year prison term.

The case dates back to the discovery in 2006 by German police of the mutilated body of the two-year-old Kevin crammed in a refrigerator.

Earlier a family court had ordered Kevin be taken away from his foster father, a heroin addict known for his violent outbursts.

Pathologists noted about two dozen fractures in Kevin's skeleton and said the boy had probably died seven months before he was found.

Welfare officers on trial

Kevin had lived with his foster father since his mother's death a year earlier. Many in Germany blamed failures in the child welfare system for Kevin's death.

Not only was Kevin left in an unsafe environment, but welfare officials also never stopped by for a visit in the last months before his death, according to media reports.

"Kevin was under the guardianship of the state. And we had a responsibility to protect him and take great care in this case but nonetheless we failed to prevent his death," Bremen's Social Affairs Senator Karin Roepke said at the time. Roepke resigned one day after the boy's body was found.

Two welfare officials are to go on trial next, accused of homicide for neglecting their duty to take care of Kevin.

Growing concerns about child abuse

The case was one of the nastiest of a series of infanticides and child-starvation cases over the past few years in Germany.

In another homicide verdict Thursday, a mother was given seven years jail for dashing her baby, 7 weeks, to the floor in a rage.

Experts estimate there are about 10.000 children living in conditions bordering on neglect in Germany, which is one of Europe's richest countries.

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