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Thursday, 28 November, 2002, 18:45 GMT
German 'crush killer' jailed
Guenther Kaufmann after the verdict
Kaufmann was a familiar face in German film
A burly German actor who crushed an accountant to death with his own body weight is beginning a 15-year prison sentence.

Guenther Kaufmann, 119 kg (19 stone), was cleared of murder by a court in Munich but convicted of grievous robbery and blackmail with fatal consequences.


The verdict is fair - I made a terrible mistake

Guenther Kaufmann
Kaufmann, a 56-year-old actor who appeared in films by the late German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder, wept at the verdict but said it was "fair".

He described the death of accountant Hartmut Hagen in February 2001 as a "terrible mistake".

The court found that Kaufmann had tried to blackmail Mr Hagen after defrauding him in partnership with his wife, Alexandra, who has since died.

Under a scheme devised by Kaufmann's wife, she had borrowed the equivalent of about $500,000 from the 60-year-old accountant on the pretext of filing a lucrative compensation claim in the United States.

When Mr Hagen challenged Kaufmann to repay the money, a violent argument ensued, according to the actor.

He said that he had accidentally fallen on Mr Hagen who "all of a sudden was no longer moving".

'Atypical'

Medical experts at the trial said it would have taken five minutes for the suffocation to occur and prosecutors sought a life sentence for murder.

But the Presiding Judge, Juergen Hanreich, said the "atypical manner of death" suggested the killing was not deliberate.

Guenther Kaufmann, the son of a US serviceman stationed overseas and a German mother, played in such Fassbinder films as The Marriage of Maria Braun and the TV series Berlin Alexanderplatz.

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