Life sentences handed out in murder-for-hire

A Berlin judge on Thursday sentenced four people to life sentences in a sordid conspiracy murder case in which a pizza delivery driver was paid €500 to kill a young woman for her life insurance.

A fifth person, had been sentenced to 14 years in prison last year in the murder of Christin R., a 21-year-old stable girl from Reinickendorf in northern Berlin.

She had been found strangled to death in a parking lot in June 2012. Shortly after, police uncovered the conspiracy murder plot that started with Christin's ex-boyfriend and his mother.

Courts heard how the mother-son duo had taken out life insurance policies without Christin's knowledge to the tune of €2.4 million and named themselves the beneficiaries. The plan was to then murder Christin and buy a stables for themselves with the money.

However, Christin survived the first two attempts on her life, a stabbing and a poisoning.

The son then told courts that they were carried out by the woman he was having an affair with. He claimed that he was not behind the murder plot because he had been 80 kilometres away at the time of the murder.

The secret lover, though, said that he had told her they could be together if the ex-girlfriend were out of the way, so after failing to poison Christin R., she enlisted the help of her younger brother.

Clockwise from top left: The ex-boyfriend, the mother, the lover, the brother. Photos: DPA

It was the younger brother who found the pizza delivery driver turned killer-for-hire. For €500, he strangled Christin R. in the parking lot of the swimming pool in Lübars, leaving her body to be discovered the next day.

The ex-boyfriend, the mother, the lover and the brother, as well as the killer were arrested the following day after police connected all five of them to one another through mobile phone messages.

Last year, the lover already confessed to her part of the plot, gaining her a reduced sentence in exchange for testifying against her co-conspirators.

In the end, the judge found that the boyfriend and his mother were indeed involved, and in his sentencing, noted that they were the most responsible in Christin R.'s death.  

"A group of unremarkable people who assembled with the treacherous goal of murdering (Christin R.), with an unconditional will to destroy regardless of previous attempts on her life," said Judge Ralph Ehestädt.

In Germany, a life sentence means that at least 15 years must be served in prison before any possibility of parole being granted. 

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German farmer sues Volkswagen over CO2 emissions

A German court on Friday began hearing a case against the Volkswagen group brought by a farmer who claims the pollution caused by the automotive giant is infringing on his rights.

German farmer sues Volkswagen over CO2 emissions

Ulf Allhoff-Cramer, an organic farmer from the Rhineland town of Detmold, backed by the Greenpeace campaign group, says Volkswagen’s emissions are significantly contributing to climate change and therefore damaging his business.

He claims this is interfering with his fundamental rights to property, health and freedom.

“A corporation with such gigantic CO2 emissions as VW is partly responsible for the damage caused by the climate crisis,” Roda Verheyen, Allholf-Cramer’s lawyer, was cited as saying by Greenpeace ahead of the proceedings.

If the group does not reduce its emissions much faster than currently planned, it will be harming others and therefore behaving “unlawfully”, she said.

However, a spokesman for the court in Detmold on Friday said it had expressed clear doubts about the success of the lawsuit.

The case was adjourned until September to allow time for the farmer to submit additional written evidence and to allow Volkswagen time to comment.

READ ALSO: How climate change is threatening Germany’s forests 

The automotive group has previously rejected his allegations as “unfounded”.

He is trying to claim “individual liability for general consequences of climate change” and that “in our view cannot succeed”, the carmaker said.

Allhoff-Cramer and Greenpeace want to force VW to reduce the proportion of cars it makes with combustion engines to 25 percent by 2029, and to end production of combustion engine vehicles completely by 2030.

They also want VW to reduce its CO2 emissions by 65 percent compared to 2018.

The plaintiffs accuse VW of having known about the dangers of global warming for decades.

READ ALSO: Germany chooses Greenpeace chief as first climate envoy

They say research has shown the board was warned at a meeting in 1983 of the consequences of increasing carbon dioxide emissions and the threat of climate change.

The Volkswagen group – whose 12 brands include Audi, Porsche and Skoda – is pumping 35 billion euros into the shift to electric vehicles and aims to become the world’s largest electric carmaker by 2025.