42-year-old on trial in murder of 15-year-old

The suspect was already facing charges for unrelated crimes and had previously been tried for rape. He turned himself in last August.

Bekim H. was free in Berlin despite pending cases of coercion and threats and a previous stint in a psychiatric hospital for a 2001 rape.<br>
Bekim H. was free in Berlin despite pending cases of coercion and threats and a previous stint in a psychiatric hospital for a 2001 rape.
Pressefoto Wagner

Berlin-The trial of a man accused of attempting to rape and then murdering a 15-year-old student in August began Wednesday, raising serious questions about why the man who had once been on trial for rape remained unsupervised.

Bekim H., 42, wearing a black hoodie, hid his face from journalists and visitors at the Kriminalgericht court in Moabit, including the victim's mother and sister who are co-plaintiffs in the case. 

The victim was on her way home from a 4 August birthday party when she met Bekim at Ostkreuz at about 2am on 5 August, senior prosecutor Ralph Knispel said. Surveillance camera footage shows how the pair met and appear to leave the station voluntarily together, according to opening statements in the trial, which is expected to last 14 days.

They climbed over a fence to access a wasteland, popular with transients, near Rummelsburger Bucht on the banks of the Spree in southeastern Berlin.

Prosecutors allege the suspect then dragged the victim into a bush in the deserted area, forcibly removed her clothes and attempted to rape her. When he was unsuccessful, Bekim H. then strangled her to cover up the crime, the senior prosecutor said.

Later that day, the suspect lead officers to the body after turning himself in alongside his attorney. He still claims to have no memory of the crime although investigators found the victim's mobile phone in his apartment with the sim card removed.

"I assume that the crime is based on a hatred of women," said Christina Clemm, an attorney representing the victim's mother. "He was not innocuous. There had already been other criminal charges against him before the crime."

Bekim H. was well-known to authorities and had been released from supervision in 2019 after a therapist five years earlier said he presented no risk. He was committed to psychiatric prison after being found mentally incompetent during his trial for the 2001 rape of a 68-year-old woman.

He is also facing charges of coercion and threats that are related to alleged crimes committed prior to the murder - he's been in custody since turning himself in. 

This article about the trial in the Rummelsburger Bucht murder was adapted from the original German by Andrew Bulkeley