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American man admits to attacking 2 US tourists and killing one of them near a famous German castle

BERLIN — An American man on Monday admitted to charges of murder and rape after he allegedly pushed two U.S. women down a ravine, fatally injuring one of them near Germany’s Neuschwanstein castle last year.

The 31-year-old defendant admitted to the charges during the start of his trial, the German news agency dpa reported. Defendants in the German legal system do not formally enter pleas to charges.

“The defendant has committed an unfathomable crime,” defense lawyer Philip Mueller said in a statement. The defendant, whose name hasn’t been released in line with German privacy rules, confirmed that his lawyer’s statement was correct but did not answer any questions.

The defendant is charged with murder, rape with fatal consequences, attempted murder and possession of child pornography. Murder charges carry a maximum sentence of life in prison in Germany.

The attack happened on June 14 last year near the Marienbruecke, a bridge over a gorge close to the castle that offers a view of Neuschwanstein, one of Germany’s most famous tourist attractions.

Prosecutors say the defendant met by chance the two female tourists, aged 21 and 22, on a hiking path and lured them off the trail. They said in a statement that he apparently first forced the younger woman to the ground and tried to undress her.

When the elder woman tried to help her, a scuffle ensued and the suspect allegedly pushed her down a steep slope. She fell about 50 meters (165 feet) and sustained a head injury, bruises and grazes but survived.

The suspect then allegedly strangled the younger woman until she was unconscious and raped her, prosecutors said, before pushing her down the slope as well. She died.

Prosecutors said they secured a laptop and cellphones from the suspect containing child sexual abuse material.

Authorities say the women didn’t know the man before they met near Neuschwanstein. The suspect was arrested shortly after the attack.

A verdict is expected to be announced in mid-March at the earliest.

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