A 48-year-old German man went on trial on Tuesday charged with raping and beating his daughters and stepson and fathering eight children by his stepdaughter in a 20-year reign of terror in a small village.
Detlef S., a truck driver, admitted at the start of the trial in Koblenz that he was the father of his stepdaughter's seven children -- an eighth had died of cot death. The statement was academic -- a DNA test had already established with 99.9 percent certainty that he was the father.
He has been charged with 350 cases of sexually abusing his two stepchildren and his biological daughter.
His stepdaughter, Ines* S., now 28, remained silent for 15 years. Her stepfather started raping her when she was 12 and her children are aged 17 months to 11 years. They all lived in a large half-timbered house in the village of Fluterschen, population 750, north of the western city of Koblenz.
It is one of Germany's largest abuse cases to date. Media have dubbed Detlef S. "Germany's Fritzl" after Josef Fritzl, the Austrian man who kept his daughter as a sex slave in a cramped cellar complex for 24 years.
The lawyers of the victims say Detlef S. ruled his family like a tyrant. The truck driver met Ines' mother in the mid-1980s when Ines and her twin brother were six months old. The mother also brought two older sons into the relationship.
Detlef S. married the mother and adopted the four children. He fathered four more children with his wife -- one girl and three boys.
According to the lawyers, Detlef S. beat his wife and children, occasionally resorting to a belt and a whip, sometimes going on until they lost consciousness.
According to the prosecution, he started abusing Ines when she was 13. By that time he had already been abusing her brother for several years. He also abused his biological daughter. He became even more brutal after losing his driver's license due to drunk driving.
The Loving Grandfather
Ines became pregnant by her stepfather for the first time when she was 16. He accompanied her on each visit to the gynaecologist and was present at all eight births. To the outside world, he was the loving grandfather.
Ines' twin brother alerted the local youth welfare office after each birth and even filed a legal complaint against Detlef S. The children all bore a startling resemblance to him, which made the stepson suspicious. But the office dismissed the accusations and said he was waging a "campaign of revenge" against Detlef S.
An uncle also approached the welfare office, as did a midwife who helped deliver three of the babies. She said she was surprised at how resigned Ines seemed during each birth.
But Ines S. herself said nothing for years. She always vehemently denied that there was any abuse, said Joachim Brenner, spokesman for the welfare office in town of Altenkirchen. Without her testimony, the office couldn't step in, and wasn't authorized to order DNA paternity tests.
Brenner said Ines S. kept giving different stories. One of them was dictated by the stepfather himself. Detlef S. forced Ines to write a letter to the welfare office claiming that she often went to nightclubs, had a string of sexual partners and didn't know who the father or fathers of her children were.
In February 2008, a friend of Detlef S. from a neighboring village visited the welfare office and claimed he was the father of all the children. "He probably took money for that," says Katharina Hellwig, Ines' lawyewr.
Brenner insists that the welfare office made checks. But a physical examination of the children had found no trace of abuse, and none of the children ever levelled accusations against Detlef S.
Detlef S. is also accused of having "rented out" Ines and his biological daughter to acquaintances for sex, in return for 30 ($40) to 40 ($54). One of those men will stand trial separately from March 18.
'He Didn't Need a Dungeon'
But why did Ines S. protect Detlef all those years?
The stepfather put her under enormous pressure, physically and psychologically, says Hellwig. "He didn't need a dungeon." It was as if they all "had gags in their mouths and chains on their feet."
Then, last summer, Detlef S.' biological daughter could no longer stand it. Her father had raped her for years, but he had always made sure that she didn't get pregnant. She was 18 and wanted to move out of the home. She drafted a letter to her mother telling her what has been happening to her. She put down the pen, then started writing again. She wrote several drafts.
In August, Ines found these letters. Until then, she only suspected that her stepfather was raping her half-sister. But the siblings never confided in each other. Out of fear. "The pressure also worked internally," says Hellwig.
"There was an unbearable atmosphere of intimidation," says Sandra Buhr, the layer for the biological daughter. "No one said a word because they were so scared."
Ines finally sent one of the letters to the youth welfare office and Detlef S. was arrested shortly afterwards. He has been in custody since August 10. "Suddenly they were all relieved," says Buhr. Including the mother, who herself was mistreated by Detlef S.
Ines hopes the case will bring her some closure. "She wants him to spend the rest of his life behind bars," says Hellwig.
Forced Into Prostitution
On Tuesday, Detlef S. appeared in a red blazer that looked much too big for him. His attorney read out his statement admitting to being the father of his stepdaughter's children. He didn't say anything himself. He sat impassively as the charges were read out, occasionally shaking his head.
The prosecutor told the court how he started abusing his biological daughter on her 12th birthday. After her friends had gone home from the party, he forced her to lie on the bed. When she resisted, he told her that he was allowed to do it because he was her father.
The daughter was abused once a week for several years. The prosecutor said Detlef. S had forced both his daughter and stepdaughter to prostitute themselves in 35 cases from 1995 onwards, with two men. The daughters were made compliant with Schnapps. The defendant would masturbate during the encounters.
If found guilty, Detlef S. faces up to 15 years in prison. Due to the severity of the crimes, the prosecutor's office may also ask for him to be detained after the end of his sentence.
He stared at his stepdaughter across the courtroom on Tuesday. The young woman evaded his gaze. She is still hoping that he will make a full confession to spare her having to tell the court the chilling details.
* name changed by SPIEGEL