Ernst K.'s Trial for Kidnapping, Torturing, and Murdering Rocco Nears Its Climax in a München Courtroom
"Die Katze verirrte sich von allein in meinen Keller. Sie wollte nicht raus, da hab ich sie in der Marderfalle gefangen und in einer Regentonne voll Wasser ertränkt."
-- Ernst Bernhard K.
The long awaited trial of seventy-four-year-old amateur ornithologist Ernst Bernhard K. for kidnapping and torturing to death a handsome black Norwegian Forest Cat named Rocco last December finally got under way July 28th in Landgericht München. In addition to the opening statements by state prosecutor Beate Miksch and the defense, the accused, Tierrettung München, and Ernst K.'s neighbor, Erika S., also testified. (See photos of the defendant lost in thought above and apparently sleeping below.)
On December 13th of last year, Rocco mysteriously disappeared from the home of fifty-year-old insurance broker Andreas O. and his wife Nicole in the Moosach section of München. It was not until Heilig Abend that they found out what had happened to the beloved three and one-half year old cat that they had cared for ever since he was eight weeks old.
That was when Tierrettung München telephoned to inform them that they had located Rocco but that he was dead. Positive identification was made from an implanted microchip.
As it eventually was revealed, Ernst K., who lives only one-hundred-fifty meters away, had baited a trap with fish and illegally snared Rocco on December 13th and thereafter systematically tortured him with pepper spray and water over the course of the following eleven days. When his neighbor, seventy-one-year-old Erika S., finally caught him flagrante delicto on Christmas Eve he hurriedly finished off the job by drowning the caged cat in either a rain barrel or a garbage can.
Either Erika S. or another neighbor then contacted the police and Ernst K. promptly was arrested and charged with animal cruelty. As far as it could be determined, he so far never has spent so much as a minute in jail and has been walking the streets of München as free as a bird ever since without having to even post a cent of bail money.
Rocco's brutal and totally uncalled for systematic torture and murder so enraged Ernst K.'s neighbors that two-hundred-sixty of them responded to a plea from Tierschutzverein (TSV) München and marched in protest through the cold and snow to his residence on January 8th. (See Cat Defender posts of January 19, 2011 and June 20, 2011 entitled, respectively, "Bird Lover in München Illegally Traps Rocco and Then Systematically Tortures Him to Death with Water and Pepper Spray over an Eleven-Day Period" and "Rocco's Abduction, Systematic Torture, and Cold-Blooded Murder by a Bird Lover in München Was the Number One Cat Story of 2010.")
Ernst K.'s guilt never has been in question. The soaking wet and near death cat was found stuffed in a blue trash bag inside his garage by arresting officers. Without the intervention of Erika S., he no doubt had intentions of continuing to torture Rocco from here to eternity.
He eventually would have killed him and disposed of his body in the trash and no one would have been any the wiser. Rocco simply would have vanished into this air without a trace just as tens of thousands of cats do each year.
Of course, knowledgeable individuals realize that cats simply do not disappear. In most cases, they end up as the uncounted, unmourned, and uninvestigated murder victims of Animal Control officers, shelters, private exterminators, ornithologists, both professional and amateur, wildlife biologists, and other rabid ailurophobes.
Ernst K. was in fact so proud of his dirty deed that he declared to the arresting officers, "Ich wurde es wieder tun." Even after they had confiscated his trap he remained equally defiant. "Dann kauf ich mir halt eine andere," he promised them.
As things eventually turned out, those declarations of defiance and hubris were destined to come back and haunt him later in a civil lawsuit filed against him by Andreas. It remains to be seen what impact they will have on his criminal prosecution.
To top it all off, when a bereft Andreas later confronted him demanding an explanation he simply grinned back at him with devilish delight. He, quite obviously, is a blighter who derives almost as much pleasure out of inflicting pain upon aggrieved owners and their children as he does torturing and murdering cats. (See photo of Rocco below.)
Since he already has confessed and pled guilty, the current proceedings have absolutely nothing to do with establishing the facts of the case. Rather, Ernst K. is relying upon that old, tired, and worn-out spurious defense employed by bird-lovers all across the world that they are entitled to take the law into their own hands and kill cats because the latter sometimes kill birds.
Since birds also kill kittens and cats, their owners and advocates would be equally justified in doing likewise should Ernst K.'s reasoning prevail in court. (See Cat Defender posts of July 31, 2006, August 14, 2008, and August 1, 2011 entitled, respectively, "Fifteen-Year-Old Cat Named Bamboo Miraculously Survives Being Abducted and Mauled by a Hoot Owl in British Columbia," "Birds Killing Cats: Blackie Is Abducted by a Sea Gull and Then Dropped but Her Fall Is Broken by a Barbed-Wire Fence," and "Eddie Is Saved by an Outdoor Umbrella after He Is Abducted from the Balcony of His Manhattan Apartment and Then Dropped by a Redtailed Hawk.")
At trial, Ernst K. has accused Rocco of killing three blackbirds that frequented the bird feeders and houses that he has erected in his yard. Earlier, however, he had stated that he was not even sure that Rocco was the culprit. As is the case with wildlife biologists, ornithologists fervently believe that the only good cat is a dead one regardless of whether it kills birds of simply has the audacity to exist.
As difficult as it may be for any halfway sane person to comprehend, there is legal precedent for such an absurd defense. Back in 2007, serial cat killer James Munn Stevenson of Galveston, Texas, employed such an argument in order not only to escape punishment for gunning down hundreds of cats but to later go on and achieve fame, fortune, and cult status. (See Cat Defender posts of November 20, 2007 and August 7, 2008 entitled, respectively, "Bird Lovers All over the World Rejoice as Serial Killer James M. Stevenson Is Rewarded by Galveston Court for Gunning Down Hundreds of Cats," and "Crime Pays! Having Made Fools Out of Galveston Prosecutors, Serial Cat Killer James Munn Stevenson Is Now a Hero and Laughing All the Way to the Bank.")
At last month's hearing, Ernst K. even went so far as to allege that Rocco had broken into his basement workshop and categorically refused all entreaties to leave. "Die Katze verirrte sich von allein in meinen Keller," he told the court from behind sunglasses according to a July 28th article in Bild of Berlin. (See "Tumulte um den irren Katzen-Killer (74).") "Sie wollte nicht raus, da hab ich sie in der Marderfalle gefangen und in einer Regentonne voll Wasser ertränkt."
If Rocco did stray into his cellar -- and that is a big if, it only was because Ernst K. had deliberately left the door open so that he would be sure to get a whiff of the fish in the baited trap. Besides, it would have been easy enough for him to either have chased Rocco out or telephoned TSV München to come and collect him.
It also is entirely conceivable that Ernst K. used the birds as pawns in a diabolical game designed to lure and kill cats. It is, after all, highly suspicious that he, an experienced birder, erected his bird feeders and houses so close to the ground. (See photo below of him alongside one of them.)
Knowledgeable bird enthusiasts erect their feeders and houses on tall, slender poles that are impossible for cats and other animals to climb. The feeders then can be either lowered or accessed via stepladders for restocking.
Secondly, if he had been the least bit serious about deterring cats from entering his yard he could have taken any number of nonlethal preventative measures. For example, he could have erected a tall fence, scattered organic deterrents around his Grundstück, and invested in either ultrasound, motion detectors, or a sprinkler system.
Ernst K. is not really all that different from the millions of like-minded cat-haters around the world who masquerade as ornithologists and wildlife biologists. Once their lies and pretenses are stripped away, all that remains is a rogue band of ruthless criminals.
When questioned in court by presiding judge Gerhard Simon as to why he had "so ausflippte," Ernst K. came closer to admitting the truth. Wegen der drei toten Vögel "und die Gelegenheit war auch da," he answered according to the July 28th edition of Die Welt of Berlin. (See "Rentner spritzt schreiende Katze mit Wasserstrahl tot.")
That is precisely how criminals think and behave. Having zero regard for either morality or the law, they strike like thieves in the night whenever the right Gelegenheit presents itself.
The petit fait that the judge phrased his question in such a fashion is, unfortunately, not a good omen for the prosecution. Despite what Simon has assumed, there was absolutely nothing either flippant or spur-of-the-moment about Ernst K.'s aberrant behavior; au contraire, it was calculated and devious and as such designed to inflict as much pain and suffering on Rocco as possible.
To put it another way, there is not anything either temporarily or permanently amiss with Ernst K.'s mind; he is simply evil. Furthermore, he should not be allowed to escape incarceration because of his age.
In a feeble and totally unconvincing last-ditch effort to avoid jail, Ernst K. for the first time uttered so much as a syllable of contrition. "Es tut mir ja leid um die Katze," he told the court according to the account in Bild.
No sooner had the words escaped from his forked tongue than he negated their import by adding, "Aber sie hat drei Amseln gefressen." Bild correctly characterized Ernst K.'s crocodile tears as "unfaßbar."
Erika S. testified that she and other neighbors had overheard Rocco's loud anguished wailings of distress emanating from Ernst K.'s property for more than a week. "Seit Tagen hatte ich dieses schreckliche Gejammer gehört," she told the court according to Bild.
In that case, she and the others behaved irresponsibly by failing to immediately notify the police. If they had acted upon their suspicions, Rocco might very well still be alive today. Their inaction is all the more inexcusable in light of the fact that Andreas O. claims not only to have blanketed the neighborhood with Lost Cat posters but also to have called in an organization that specializes in locating lost cats.
Furthermore, it is odd that neither Andreas, his wife, daughter, nor their dog heard Rocco's desperate screams for help in that they live such a short distance from Ernst K. It is difficult to criticize in a situation like this, but perhaps if they had spent more time canvassing the neighborhood they, too, either would have heard what was so audible to their neighbors or, at the very least, learned something of their suspicions.
Nevertheless, the difficulties involved in locating a lost cat can in no way be underestimated. Aside from the initial shock, there is the perplexing dilemma of where to look and what to do. All the while the cat could be sick, injured, or dying at the hands of a monster like Ernst K.
A necropsy performed on the deceased revealed that drowning was the cause of his death. Rocco's front claws also were completely worn down as the result of his futile attempt to escape Ernst K.'s incessant bombardment of him with pepper spray and water.
"An der vorderpfoten waren krallen abgerissen," an unidentified official from Tierrettung München testified according to Die Welt. "Man sah, dass sich die Katze aus der Falle zu befreien versuchte."
Numerous other questions remain unanswered, however. For example, were there burns to Rocco's eyes, mouth, face, and lungs as the result of being repeatedly pelted with pepper spray?
Secondly, what was the temperature of the water in both the garden hose and rain barrel? If it were extremely hot, there might have been evidence of scalding. Finally, were there any signs of either malnutrition or dehydration?
It is highly unlikely that Ernst K. either fed or watered him during the eleven days that he had him at his mercy, unless it was just enough in order to keep him alive so that he could continue to get his jollies by torturing him. Any halfway serious post-mortem would have answered these vitally important questions.
When Tierrettung München arrived on the scene Rocco was not moving and his breathing was labored. He died shortly thereafter.
"Ich konnte Rocco nicht helfen," the organization's Birgit Schwarzmann, who examined him, later said. "In zehn Jahres als Tierärztin habe ich nie zuvor etwas Schrecklicheres gesehen. Das war purer Sadismus."
The case has been adjourned until 13:30 Uhr (CET) August 9th because an unidentified policeman was unable to testify. It he does not show up tomorrow he will be subject to a €150 fine.
Under the law, the severest sentence that Ernst K. is eligible for is three years in the stir and a minuscule fine. On that latter point, Miksch already is on record as appraising Rocco's life to be worth only an insulting €150.
Although German jurists tend to treat cruelty to cats far more seriously than do their American counterparts, it nevertheless would be surprising if Simon gave Ernst K. more than eighteen months in jail which in turn would mean that he could be back out on the streets within six to nine months. With the eyes and ears of all Deutschland riveted on his courtroom, Simon nonetheless has good reason to think twice before turning this cretin loose.
Despite the gross inadequacy of a three measly years in jail for kidnapping, torturing, and killing a cat, Monika von Tettenborn of TSV München inexplicably believes that Deustschland's existing anti-cruelty statutes are sufficient if only the courts would rigorously enforce them. "Die Gesetze wären eigentlich ausreichend, aber sie müssen eben auch ungewendet werden," she told the München Abendzeitung on July 27th. (See "Kater zu Tode gequält: Katzenhasser von Gericht.")
Despite badly missing the boat on that last point, TSV München honored a pledge that it had made back in January by organizing a spirited protest outside the Justizgebäude. (See photo immediately below.)
Acutely aware of what is at stake in this case, one protester carried aloft a placard which read: "Rocco steht auch Stellvertretend für alle anderen gequälten Tiere! Er ist leider kein Einzelschicksal!"
Another demonstrator sported a sign that poignantly reminded one and all that "Tiere sind Lebenwesen und keine Sache! Was ist ein Lebenwesen wert?"
Another conscientious citizen with a sense of justice demanded "Höchststrafe für den brutalen Tierschänder."
Calls also went out to Simon to do the right thing. "Appell an die Richter: Setzen Sie ein Zeichen zum Schutz der Tiere," another protester pleaded.
Inside the courthouse other outraged cat-lovers booed, hissed, and shouted such unflattering epithets at the accused as "Pfui, du Schwein!" and "Schämdich, du Meuchelmörder!" All remained peaceful, however; cat advocates after all are neither ornithologists nor wildlife biologists who are not the least bit hesitant to resort to both violence and lawlessness in order to achieve their perverse objectives.
It is small potatoes in light of all that Andreas and his family have lost and been put through, but on July 11th a civil court judge in München ordered Ernst K. to pay him €500 in compensation for killing Rocco. He has announced plans to donate that money to TSV München so as to enable it to continue its advocacy on behalf of abused cats and other animals.
He was not satisfied with that, however, and demanded further assurances from both Ernst K. and the judiciary. "Mir geht es vor allem darum, dass dieser Mann, nie wieder ein Tier unserer Familie enfangen, quälen und töten darf," he demanded of the court according to the July 12the edition of the Sueddeutsche Zeitung of München. (See "Katzenquäler muss Schmerzengeld zahlen.")
In particular, he is concerned about the safety of his dog who to this very day is still not only grieving over the loss of his playmate but waiting patiently for him to return home.
This "perfide Fall von Tierquälerei" not only has irremediably destroyed the harmony that existed in Andreas's family, but it also ruined their holiday season, his attorney, Johannes Falch, told the court. Earlier Andreas had declared, "Wir vermissen Rocco sehr, er war ein Familienmitglied."
Following a telephone conversation with his client, Ernst K's unidentified attorney agreed to accept a strafbewehrte Unterlassungsklärung (a cease and desist order) whereby his client is legally bound to refrain from trapping and injuring any animals belonging to Andreas. Should he violate this order he is subject to a fine of up to €250,000.
In addition to Ernst K.'s vows to the police to continue killing cats, at least eight other cats have mysteriously disappeared in recent years from the vicinity around his house. Dogs also have been poisoned and shot with air guns. (See München Abendzeitung, May 11, 2011, "Tierfreunde in Angst.")
Immediately after Rocco's murder, an unidentified resident of the neighborhood threatened to kill additional cats. "Bitte riskieren Sie nicht, dass auch Ihre Katze einen ebenso grausamen Tod wie Rocco erleiden muss," one anonymous poster declared.
Ernst K. is suspected in the disappearance of those cats and possibly could be responsible for the attacks on the dogs as well. There are, of course, others in Moosach who share his hatred of cats as well as plenty of individuals who do not like dogs.
In order to make the punishment fit the crime, Simon should bear in mind the simple but yet poignant message contained in one of the protester's placards: "Er kannte keine gnade mit Rocco! Kein mildes Urteil für Ernst K."
He therefore should sentence Ernst K. to three years in jail without the possibility of either early release or time off for good behavior. Even after he is released he should be placed on probation for the remainder of his life and his actions closely monitored.
Jurists all over the world have a thoroughly repugnant habit of winking at cruelty to cats, especially whenever ornithologists and wildlife biologists are the guilty parties. This case involves far more than run-of-the-mill animal cruelty and if Simon is unwilling to come down hard on such a blatant act of "purer Sadismus," then the anti-cruelty statutes might as well be stricken from Deutschland's judicial code.
Photos: Focus Magazin of München (a comtemplative Ernst K.), Deutscher Auslands-Depeschendienst (Ernst K. asleep and demonstrators), Dorfener Anzeiger (Rocco), and Bild (Ernst K. feeding the birds).