A court in Germany acquitted a man on Friday after spending 13 years behind bars for the suspected murder of an elderly woman who was found in a bathtub.
Manfred Genditzki was sentenced to life imprisonment on charges of murdering the 87-year-old resident of the building where he worked as a supervisor in 2008. It was argued that he hit her over the head during an argument and then drowned.
Genditzki continuously denied during a protracted court battle that he had killed the woman.
In a judicial scandal, which made headlines, the judges of the regional court in Munich determined that Genditzki was wrongly convicted. He was granted compensation of almost €369 000 (about R7.6 million).
“It was not a murder. He is therefore acquitted and therefore innocent,” said a spokesperson for the court, referring to new evidence that the woman’s death was an accident.
Local media reported that Genditzki sat silently as the verdict was delivered. Many of his supporters wept in court.
Genditzki, now 63 years old, worked in a large residential complex in the southern town of Rottach-Egern. He contested his conviction once in advance before a federal tribunal, but was found guilty again in 2012 by a court in Munich.
In a third trial, based on advances in forensic science, his lawyer, Regina Rick, presented new evidence showing that the water temperature in the bathtub, where the woman was found, indicated a different time of death than initially assumed. .
A second scientific report presented to the court used a computer simulation to show that the woman’s death was probably an accident.
Last August, Rick secured her client’s provisional release for the first time on this evidence, given the growing doubt in his guilt and Genditzki’s previous clean criminal record.
After more than 13 years in detention, he returned to his family and started working as a manager for a cheese factory while the regional court prepared a new case.
The spokesperson for the court said Friday’s acquittal, which was eventually even presented by state prosecutors, “is based on experts’ reports that made use of the most modern methods that were not available at the time of his previous convictions”.
In the 4,915 days behind bars, Genditzki missed time to help raise his children and also missed the birth of his grandchildren, he added. “He has now been acquitted. It is a tragedy that one can hardly describe.”
The court determined that Genditzki should receive €75 for each day he was in prison – ultimately a sum of €368,000. He can also submit additional claims for loss of income.