A German court on Tuesday jailed a former lorry driver for 14 and a half years for sexually abusing his daughter, stepson and stepdaughter, with whom he fathered eight children.
Spies “was utterly selfish. He treated his family as his own personal property to do with as he wished,” presiding judge Winfried Hetger told the court in Koblenz, western Germany, as he passed sentence.
“He had his family in his clutches to such an extent that he didn’t even have to lock anyone up…. He told his victims that what he was doing to them was ‘allowed’.”
In a trial that has shocked the country and drawn comparisons with the infamous 2009 case of Austrian Josef Fritzl, Spies subjected his family to an ordeal lasting more than 20 years in and around the tiny village of Fluterschen.
The court heard how he would abuse his daughter Jasmin and stepdaughter Natascha on a regular basis from their 12th birthdays onwards, raping his daughter for the first time on the back seat of his Toyota in a forest.
Spies also prostituted both girls out to other men dozens of times either in their flats, in a shed or in the back room of one of the men’s Turkish doner kebab shop, the judge said.
He would sometimes watch and masturbate during these ordeals. He would be paid 40 deutschmarks and later 30-50 euros (42-69 dollars) each time, the court heard.
Spies was found guilty of 28 counts of sexually abusing minors, 42 counts of serious sexual assault of children, and 63 counts of sexually abusing people under his care.
“When you add all these crimes together you come to a total sentence of 500 years and 10 months,” judge Hetger said.
“German law however does not allow such a sentence.”
Visitors in the packed courtroom cheered as the sentence was handed down, while the small, thin and unremarkable-looking Spies stared at the floor, showing no emotion, as his stepchildren, now adults, sat opposite.
Spies had admitted fathering eight children, one of whom died, with his stepdaughter, who is now 28. This was however not part of the trial.
The sentence demanded — 14 years and six months — was just under the maximum possible of 15 years, because on Monday he had made a full confession through his lawyer. After the sentence he will be in preventive custody.
Several German media outlets have compared Spies to Fritzl, who held his daughter Elisabeth as a sex slave in a cramped, homemade dungeon in Austria for 24 years. He was jailed for life in 2009.
Fritzl raped Elisabeth thousands of times, fathering seven children with her and letting one of the newborn babies die. He was sentenced to life in prison in March 2009.
This latest case has also laid bare the failure of neighbours and authorities to detect what was going on, with social workers having conducted interviews with the family — but with Spies present.
“If you are a trained social worker, you are supposed to go there and interview the victims without the perpetrator being present, and not all together,” stepson Bjoern said previously.
It emerged on the first day of the trial that there was a criminal investigation in 2002 but that it was abandoned because the daughter disputed the accusations against her father, while the stepdaughter said nothing.
Spies was arrested on August 10, 2010.
The mother of the three victims, who is in her 50s, appeared as a witness in the trial and prosecutors have not charged her with any offence.
“This verdict is also an appeal to all other victims out there not to keep quiet, but to have the courage to speak out,” Hetger said.
“Only then will the hurting stop.”