1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

German court jails teen over murder of 6-year-old

May 2, 2024

A court in northeastern Germany has sentenced a teenager to a prison term of nearly eight years for the murder of a younger child. The teen confessed only after prosecutors began to investigate his brother.

Crosses, candles and small statues at the crime scene
Crosses, candles and small statues were left at the place where Joel was foundImage: Bernd Wüstneck/dpa/picture alliance

A court in the German state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania on Thursday sentenced a 15-year-old to seven years and nine months in prison over the death of a 6-year-old.

What we know about the crime

The court heard that the victim, known to the German media as Joel, had been out playing in his home village of Pragsdorf but did not arrive home at the agreed time on September 14 last year.

In the evening, the child was found with heavy stab wounds in a hedge by a soccer field. The search team and emergency services tried to revive the youngster, but he died later in hospital.

The teenager was the last person who had seen Joel alive on September 14, police said. He was also said to have contradicted himself during questioning and traces of his DNA were found on the 15-centimeter-long (six-inch) murder knife.

The defendant, who was 14 at the time of the killing, and his victim's family knew each other from the village.

According to the court, the defendant had often played with Joel and looked after him at times. 

Before the murder, the two were sitting in a bush, known as a secret hiding place among village children, because the defendant wanted to smoke.

The crime was triggered by a derogatory comment made by the little boy during a game together. The defendant tried to choke Joel when he refused to take part in a breath-holding contest. The younger boy had initially lost consciousness, but came round and complained that he hated the defendant.

Fearing Joel would tell his parents, the defendant went on to stab him seven times with a knife he had brought along.

He threw the knife into the undergrowth, where it was later found. He went shopping and later took part in the search for Joel. 

Police said the teenager had been reported to them shortly after the crime became apparent. A search of the family's apartment took place immediately, but the suspected weapon was not found at the time and the allegation against him could not be substantiated. He was not arrested until nearly two weeks later after being linked with the murder weapon, which had been discovered in a search.

Late admission of guilt

The defendant only finally confessed last month to choking the boy and killing him with multiple stab wounds.

The public prosecutor's office had also initiated investigations against the defendant's brother, a development that became known only shortly after the trial began.

At the beginning of April, after a long silence, the defendant made a partial confession and spoke about the involvement of another person who was not his brother.

The defendant was originally charged with manslaughter but prosecutors pursued a charge of murder, demanding a custodial sentence of eight years.

A lawyer for the murdered child's parents, who were represented as co-plaintiffs, demanded the maximum sentence possible under the circumstances of 10 years.

Meanwhile, the defendant's defense attorney had said he was guilty of manslaughter, calling for the sentence to be limited to seven years.

rc/sms (dpa, AFP)