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A COUPLE who claimed to be vampires and killed a man by stabbing him more than 60 times in a satanic ritual were convicted of murder yesterday. Daniel Ruda, 26, a former car-parts salesman, and his wife, Manuela, 23, were sentenced to 15 years and 13 years respectively in a secure psychiatric hospital, but the judge in the western German town of Bochum said the possibility that they could kill again meant they might never be released.

The pair had confessed to killing the man in their apartment surrounded by human skulls, cemetery lights, scalpels and incense - because the Devil ordered them to do so.

It was a particularly gruesome killing. The victim, Frank Hackerts 33, who was apparently chosen by the Rudas as their victim because of his love of the Beatles, was hit over the head with a hammer, stabbed 66 times and had a pentagram carved into his chest. The Rudas say they then drank his blood and slept together in a coffin they kept at their flat.

Manuela Ruda told the court: "We were not alone - there was a presence there, a powerful force." She said her husband had "terrible, glowing eyes" as he stood up before delivering the first hammer blow.

Manuela claimed she was first drawn to satanism during a visit to Britain. She told the court she drifted into the "gothic" scene after the Devil contacted her when she was 14. At 16, bored by her life in the small German town of Witten, she travelled to the Scottish Highlands where she worked in a hotel for a few months and enjoyed the emptiness, the cemeteries and gloomy atmosphere of the low clouds, she said. She spent time living in a cave on the Isle of Skye with Tom Leppard, a heavily tattooed 62- year-old man .

In London she worked in a gothic club in Islington where she claims to have joined a group who attended "bite parties" and worshipped the Devil. "We drank blood from living people," she told police. "We slept on graves. One time we dug a grave and I slept in it, just to see what it would feel like."

Manuela met Daniel Ruda after she returned to Germany and answered a lonely hearts advertisement in a heavy metal magazine. It read: "Black- haired vampire seeks princess of darkness who despises everything and everybody and has bidden farewell to life."

Throughout the trial the couple showed no remorse for the killing, maintaining that they had done Frank Hackerts a favour because he is now "beside Satan, the best place that he could be".

In the courtroom in Bochum the Rudas put on a daily show of defiantly provocative behaviour, including rude gestures, rolling their eyes manically and sticking their tongues out.

They claimed that because they were following the orders of the Devil, they could not be held responsible for murder. "If I kill a person with my car and half his bloody head is left on my bumpers, it is not the car that goes to jail," Daniel Ruda told the court, "it is the driver who is evil. I have nothing to repent, because I did nothing."

Psychiatric experts told the court that the couple were suffering from "severe narcissistic personality disturbances". As a result, the prosecution rejected calls for life sentences, arguing that the couple were mentally ill and could not be held wholly responsible for their actions. They are "not the monsters" depicted in the media, the prosecution said.

Passing sentence, Judge Arnjo Kerstingtombroke said: "This case was not about satanism but about a crime committed by two people with severe disorders. Nothing mystical or cult-like happened here; just simple, base murder."

He said the Rudas were not insane and had been fit enough to be tried, but that their pschiatric disorders were sufficient to stop him from handing down life sentences - the standard punishment for premeditated killing. The judge also said so much fan mail had been sent to the Rudas during the case that he was worried about the "limitless stupidity" of many members of the public.

Both defendants sat quietly as the sentence was read out, Daniel staring at his victim's mother, Manuela chewing gum. The victim's father, Hermann Hackerts, was also in court, as he had been throughout the trial. He said: "At the beginning I did not want to go to the trial but now I'm glad that we sat eye to eye. Now I understand that they are bad people, but people not devils, and absolutely unsound of mind."

On Channel 4 News, Daniel Ruda's lawyer, Hans Reinhardt, said he believed the couple's claim of demonic possession was a cover. "I think he [Daniel] pretends to be an instrument of Satan because he is the sort of person who says, `I am the best, I am the greatest'," Mr Reinhardt said.

Daniel's motive may have been celebrity, his lawyer said. "He says, `I want to get on stage, I want that everybody knows me ... I want to be as famous as Charles Manson and so I have to kill someone'," Mr Reinhardt said.


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