German woman convicted of selling son for sex online

Mother’s partner also sentenced to 12 years for repeatedly raping boy (10)

The boy’s mother, Berrin T (left), is led to the courtroom of the district court in Freiburg,  Germany, on August 7th, 2018. Photograph: Thomas Kienzle/AFP/Getty Images

The boy’s mother, Berrin T (left), is led to the courtroom of the district court in Freiburg, Germany, on August 7th, 2018. Photograph: Thomas Kienzle/AFP/Getty Images


A 10-year-old German boy’s mother and stepfather have been jailed for 12 years each for abusing him and selling him to paedophile men on the internet for sex.

Germany’s most troubling child abuse case in history ended on Tuesday after shocking testimony of how the boy was abused by his 48-year-old mother and her 39-year-old partner – up to twice a week – before they offered him to strangers for sex on the darknet, an area of the internet beyond traditional search engines.

A court in Freiburg, southwest Germany, sentenced the couple after they pleaded guilty to the charges of rape, aggravated sexual assault of children, forced prostitution and distribution of child pornography, and for filming the abuse.

While the mother declined to testify, the stepfather’s testimony opened the door to other cases against abusers, whom he charged €50 a time. Earlier this week a Spanish man was jailed for 10 years for repeated sexual abuse of the boy while five other men from Germany and Switzerland were also prosecuted in relation to abuse.

As well as sentencing them to prison, the court ordered the couple to pay €42,500 in damages to the boy, who now lives in foster care, and a further victim, a three-year-old daughter of a friend the woman occasionally minded.

European network

The investigation exposed a paedophile network across Europe as well as repeated failure by child protection and welfare authorities to intervene.

The abuse began after the couple met in 2015, when the 39-year-old was released from prison after four years for abusing a 13 year-old girl and possession of child pornography.

Child welfare authorities moved the boy to a foster family in March 2017, apparently without knowing about the sexual abuse, but he was returned to his mother after she won a case at the family court.

In April 2017 she was ordered to prevent her partner having contact with her son, but this was not checked and social workers said later there were no signs of child abuse.

The abuse continued on the boy’s return and only ended in September 2017 after an anonymous tip-off.

“I was the main perpetrator, no question,” the stepfather told the court.

But online chat protocols found by police revealed the mother, with a relatively low IQ of 67, was aware of the abuse at the start and increasingly became more involved as they filmed video clips and sold them online.

“In the relationship she was the weaker party, ready to save the relationship by offering up her son,” wrote psychiatrist Hartmut Pleines in a court-ordered study.

Prosecutor Nikola Novak said that, while the stepfather gave testimony in court he had not told everything he knew about child abuse on the darknet.

“He was preoccupied with abuse daily,” she said. “If he confessed everything that he saw there, we would be sitting here for years.”

In her ruling, Judge Eva Voßkuhle said she “couldn’t have imagined” that such abuse was taking place near the prosperous city of Freiburg.