German teenagers admit in court to killing 'hero'

13th July 2010, Comments 0 comments

Two German teenagers admitted in court Tuesday to beating to death a 50-year-old man who tried to protect a group of children from them, in a case that shocked the country.

As the trial of 19-year-old Markus Schiller and his 18-year-old accomplice began, the defendants confessed to brutalising businessman Dominik Brunner on a train platform but said the older man had struck first.

"I know that what I did cannot be excused and that my reaction was absolutely wrong," Schiller told the court in the southern city of Munich.

"I am so sorry for the death of Mr Brunner I cannot describe it."

Schiller and Sebastian Leibinger are in the dock for murder after a confrontation on a regional train last September.

The teenagers, aged 17 and 18 at the time, said they tried with an accomplice to bully a group of 13 to 15-year-olds into handing over 15 euros (19 dollars). The accomplice allegedly punched and kicked two of the children.

When Brunner saw the altercation, he confronted the assailants, offered to exit the train with the frightened children at a station and alerted the police on his mobile phone.

Leibinger and Schiller followed the group off the train and began punching and kicking Brunner. They inflicted more than 40 blows in less than one minute and Brunner bled to death soon after.

Schiller, who said he had been drinking heavily that afternoon, said Brunner had attacked first and that as a result he "must have just lost control". But he said he neither expected nor wanted Brunner to die.

Leibinger also begged for forgiveness.

"I am sorry from the bottom of my heart -- I never wanted that to happened," he said.

The case triggered an outpouring of rage and sorrow across the country, as the media mourned Brunner as a fallen hero and then president Horst Koehler posthumously awarded Brunner the Federal Cross of Merit for civil courage.

"I lost you because you would not look away," Brunner's girlfriend wrote in a eulogy.

Their attorneys have argued that Brunner hit out first so the two defendants should only face a manslaughter conviction and not murder.

The trial is due to run until the end of the month. If convicted of murder, Schiller could face life imprisonment. Because he was a minor at the time, Leibinger faces a maximum of 10 years in jail.

© 2010 AFP

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