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"Behind it was in truth an empathetic devil"

After her separation, she wanted to experience something again, go out, party, meet people.

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"Behind it was in truth an empathetic devil"

After her separation, she wanted to experience something again, go out, party, meet people. The single mother of Luis*, 2, and Torben*, 4, worked shifts for the Cologne police and didn't have much time for herself. That should change, at least from time to time. So Beate M.* (*name changed), then 37, placed a classified ad in 2007: Looking for a babysitter for two boys.

There were a few responses, but one answer stood out. One Marcus wrote that "reliability and responsibility are not empty phrases" for him and he wants "your children to be fine and you can use your time with a good feeling". A "common settling-in period together with the parents" is very important to him, he assured. Marcus R. from Wermelskirchen near Cologne came by for several trial dates, played with the little ones in front of Beate M., inspired the children and made a good impression on their mother.

Then the woman left him alone with Luis and Torben for the first time.

When she came home at night, the sons were asleep. From now on, the 46-year-old came once a month, the mother said goodbye, and Marcus R. put the children to bed. The supposedly loving babysitter even became Luis' godfather when Beate M. had him baptized at the age of ten.

Since September, the 2nd Criminal Chamber of the Cologne Regional Court has been hearing against Marcus R. The “Wermelskirchen Abuse Complex” case is one of the most extensive in recent years. The caregiver turned out to be a serial killer who abused children, not just Luis and Torben.

Marcus R. has largely confessed to molesting 124 children between the ages of four weeks and 13 years, often using sadistic methods. He committed the crimes between 2005 and 2019. Marcus R. filmed what he was doing and showed it to other pedophiles, with whom he sent images of abuse back and forth over the Internet - encouraging fathers to commit sexualized violence to their own children. On December 3, 2021, officers from a special task force arrested him. The investigators tracked him down when they investigated one of Marcus R.'s chat partners.

He wasn't the only one Marcus R. talked to about child abuse. When asked by WELT AM SONNTAG, the Cologne public prosecutor announced that 143 proceedings had been initiated against 145 suspects in the Wermelskirchen case. Of these, 124 procedures were handed over to investigative authorities throughout Germany as well as to Canada and the USA. The volume of the secured data is more than 30 terabytes, which are still being evaluated. After the search, the investigators needed 17 days to copy all the storage media.

Beate M.'s family had no idea of ​​any of this until January 10, 2022 at 3 p.m. when the doorbell rang. Luis opened it, men standing in front of him carrying bags labeled "Kripo". Beate M. was not there, she accompanied her partner on a business trip to southern Germany. "Where's your mother?" the officers asked. She should come immediately, otherwise they would have to "take the 16-year-old with them".

An officer asked Luis about Marcus R., his babysitter from earlier days. In retrospect, did he find anything suspicious today? No, why? Luis asked back. "You've been abused," the policeman said head-on. The boy didn't understand anything, asked. But the officials did not reveal any more details, reports Beate M. "That's how my children found out. I'm still stunned when I think about it," she says.

The police could have announced their visit and delivered the message in a gentler way, because there was no longer a hurry at the time, after all, Marcus R. was already in custody. Beate M. immediately made her way back, called the police officers and was able to convince them that the older brother could look after Luis.

A day later, Beate M. learned at the police station how Marcus R. sexually abused her children. In his bag, which he always brought with him, he hid clinical thermometers, enemas, sex toys and narcotics. "What did he do with my children?" Beate M. wanted to know. The officer told her. Marcus R. abused and tormented the boys with the items they had brought with them, because they were asleep or stunned.

Once, the officer said, Luis lay on his back and whimpered softly. When he abused the children, Marcus R. always filmed his actions and commented on them. Beate M. collapsed. "I haven't seen those movies to this day and I won't," she says. "But I keep thinking about that whimper he told me about." Her goal now is to keep her boys away from the process and the abuse. "They didn't know, they don't need to know now."

Beate M. is a petite, small woman with half-length hair. She was a police officer herself for 25 years until her early retirement in 2014. She's not naive. She even had a colleague check the police computer to see if there was anything against Marcus R. before she employed him. But the officer couldn't find anything -- a criminal warrant for possession of child abuse images from 2000 had already been deleted from the system.

So she fell for Marcus R. too. "He had put on the mask of a sympathetic person with us," says Beate M. "In truth, an empathetic devil was hiding behind it." She blames herself for not noticing anything and worries about the boys. "We'll always have a shadow like that," says Beate M.

On February 3, the 17th day of the trial, Marcus R. is sitting in the courtroom with his defense attorneys. He has a slim build, wears a striped sweater and glasses. Beate M. has taken a seat in the back with her Munich lawyer Stephan Lucas, who is representing her in the secondary prosecution. She wants to be there today, because the forensic doctor Sibylle Banaschak from the University Hospital in Cologne testifies as a witness; it's about whether Marcus R. drugged the children before abusing them.

For Beate M. that is the central question. In the courtroom, she looks at Marcus R., looks at him. The godfather. The babysitter. The perpetrator.

But Marcus R. doesn't look back. Instead, he seems to be writing down everything the doctor says, as busy as if he were keeping a log and would have to report back later. He studied business informatics and expresses himself eloquently. Once he raises his hand, wants to say something - and shares details about a downloaded file that plays no role in the procedure that day. As if this triviality were important or would contribute to the enlightenment.

The judge Christoph Kaufmann then asks about the effect of various drugs that Marcus R. is said to have administered. Sibylle Banaschak assumes that the abused victims were unconscious. “Only comatose children can be manipulated. Anyone who is asleep can be awakened,” she says. Businessman asks. He has to determine how dangerous each practice was.

Painful details follow, questions about injuries and the possible danger to life and limb of the children. Beate M. listens until the public is excluded because the court wants to "take a look" at the films. "I don't want to see that," says the mother, although she should be there. She leaves the courtroom.

In the indictment, the prosecutor responsible traces the acts of abuse for pages – and thus also gives an insight into Marcus R’s thoughts and feelings. The accused told like-minded chat partners that he found the children’s “whining and resistance” stimulating. The investigators also discovered chats in which Marcus R. talks to other men about the rape of children and their injuries to death.

The officials reconstructed that the defendant sneaked into families as a babysitter and then molested the children he was supposed to look after. When contacted, he would not accept any rejection and urged the parents to give him a try. On the other hand, he searched the net for contacts with like-minded people. On the platform alone, which is home to many pedophiles as well as children and young people, he wrote a total of 30,957 messages under four different names. His wife, to whom Marcus R. has been married since 2018, suspected nothing, she told the police.

The marriage remained childless. In a chat, the accused wrote that he could not rule out abusing his own child. Babies and mentally handicapped children were among his victims, because they would “not snitch”. In his communications, Marcus R. repeatedly claimed that children "have fun" when they are abused and that the media reports "one-sidedly". The prosecutor calls the actions of the accused in the indictment "crude, inhuman and conspiratorial".

Beate M. takes solace in the hope that the two boys, according to the coroner's statement, could not remember anything, as she says over coffee in the court canteen. Does she harbor hatred for her sons' tormentor, from whom she sat only a few feet away in the courtroom? "No," says Beate M. "That doesn't help my sons."

Her lawyer Stephan Lucas comes out of the hearing and sits down at her table. He is considered a stubborn and successful criminal defense attorney and has also represented surviving dependents in the NSU trial as a co-plaintiff. "It is a particularly tragic case because the perpetrator is so pathologically lacking in empathy and the police behaved so shabbily towards my client," he says. "It's completely impossible to give unsuspecting children a message like that in the absence of their mother."

Beate M. hopes that the verdict, which is due on February 28, will give her relief. And that Marcus R. will stay in prison for a long time, maybe forever.

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