What exactly happened on a hot August day in Hanau in 1988? Why did a four-year-old die? And what about the culpability of those accused today? Almost 35 years after the death of a little boy, a suspected cult leader is on trial for murder for the second time. The 75-year-old was sentenced to life imprisonment by the Hanau Regional Court in September 2020 – but the Federal Court of Justice overturned the verdict in the course of the revision. The regional court in Frankfurt am Main is now responsible.

“Everything is open,” said the presiding judge at the start of the trial on Thursday. “We have to conduct a completely new hearing of evidence.” The grey-haired defendant, who wore an oversized jacket and a corona mask under her nose, seemed to be listening to the judge attentively, while the former nurse answered formal questions about her in a thin voice.

As in a normal procedure, after the formalities had been completed, the original indictment was read out: According to this, the 75-year-old is said to have killed the boy in the midday hours of August 17, 1988 “for base motives and cruelly”.

The four-year-old was therefore in her sole care. According to the prosecution, the woman wrapped the child completely in a burlap sack, took him to her bathroom for a nap, and left him to his fate. The alleged cult leader is said to have seen the boy as a “reincarnation of Hitler” and as “possessed by the dark”.

According to the indictment, the woman had reduced the air supply and closed the window despite an outside temperature of 32 degrees. When the boy screamed, she is said to have replied that he could stop the “eye roar”, everyone was gone. You now go out into the garden, “nobody hears you”. The four-year-old died after a “bitter agony” and the woman had achieved her despicable goal, it said.

The child is said to have choked on his vomit. For decades, the police and public prosecutors assumed it was an accident, until 2015, when people who left the sect threw a new light on the case and the first trial before the Hanau Regional Court finally took place.

However, the Federal Court of Justice criticized the conviction at that time: The criminal responsibility of the accused had not been adequately examined. In addition, there was no information about an intention to commit a crime, it was said. It is not known what was actually happening to her at the time of the crime. Also on Thursday in the courtroom it was completely unclear what the woman was thinking when the indictment was read out.

The process will not be an easy task for those involved in the process. “What’s special, of course, is that it all happened so long ago,” said Frankfurt prosecutor Miriam Ha├čbecker. There are “many years that have passed and which make it difficult to provide evidence – because witnesses can no longer testify, no longer want to testify or simply can no longer be found”. However, the public prosecutor assumes that there is still an urgent suspicion.

The defense meanwhile announced a statement for the next day of the trial in the coming week. Perhaps the 75-year-old will then express herself.