A German court on Friday exonerated a former custodian who had spent more than 13 years in prison for the suspected murder of an elderly woman found in a bathtub.
Manfred Genditzki had been handed a life sentence for allegedly killing an 87-year-old tenant of the building where he worked in 2008 by striking her on the head during a dispute and then drowning her.
Genditzki had consistently denied murdering the woman during a lengthy legal battle.
In a judicial scandal that made national headlines, the judges of the regional court in Munich ruled that Genditzki had been wrongly convicted and ordered compensation of nearly 369,000 euros ($402,000).
“It was not a murder, he is acquitted and thus innocent,” a court spokesman said, referring to new evidence suggesting the death was accidental.
Local media reported that Genditzki sat impassively as the verdict was read out while many of his supporters wept openly in the courtroom.
Genditzki, now 63, who had worked in a large residential complex in the southern town of Rottach-Egern, had already successfully contested his conviction before a federal tribunal but was found guilty again by a Munich court in 2012.
– ‘A tragedy’ –
In a third trial based on advances in forensic science, his defence attorney Regina Rick was able to bring in new evidence showing that the water temperature in the tub where the woman was found pointed to a far different time of death than initially presumed.
A second scientific report presented to the court used a computer simulation to demonstrate that her death was likely the result of an accident.
Rick won her client’s preliminary release last August on the basis of that evidence, given the mounting doubts about his guilt and Genditzki’s previously clean criminal record.
After more than 13 years in custody, he returned to his family and began working as a driver at a cheese factory while the regional court granted him a new trial.
Friday’s acquittal, which even the prosecution ultimately advocated, “came on the basis of expert reports using the most modern methods which were not available at the time of the previous convictions”, the court spokesman said.
After spending 4,915 days wrongly imprisoned in which he missed taking part in raising his children or witnessing the birth of his grandchildren, Genditzki is now exonerated, he said.
“This is a tragedy that can hardly be put into words,” he added.
The court ordered Genditzki to be paid 75 euros for every day he spent in jail, amounting to just over 368,000 euros. He may also be able to claim additional damages for lost income.