Danish parish priest jailed for murdering wife and dissolving body in acid

Danish parish priest jailed for murdering wife and dissolving body in acid
Until last month Thomas Gotthard maintained his innocence. Photo: Nordsjællands Politi/Ritzau Scanpix
A Danish parish priest been jailed for 15 years for murdering his wife by striking her on the back of her head with a stone and then dissolving her body in acid.

“I killed Maria. I ended her life, she did not deserve that fate,” Gotthard said at the end of his trial on Tuesday. “I am guilty of having lied and deceived you all. I’ve been a total thug. I have sent my life out into the darkness where I want to stay. No one should feel sorry for me.” 

In a closed-door hearing, Thomas Gotthard had that morning told the court how he had planned the murder of 43-year-old Maria From Jakobsen and how, once she was unconscious, he had smothered her nose and mouth with his hands for several minutes until she was dead.

He said he had decided to murder her because of problems in his marriage and his fear that a divorce would have caused problems with his children and his existing ex-wife. He had also started a relationship with another woman who has was “wildly in love with”. 

“It’s terrible to say, but it became a sort of hobby for him,” said Prosecutor Anne-Mette Seerup as she read out the explanation Gotthard had given in court. “This is not an unhappy love story about a man who could not get the love of his life. Or the third love of his life. On the contrary, this is a man who saw his wife as a block and chain around his leg.” 

Influenced by an episode of Breaking Bad he had seen, Gotthard decided to dissolve the body in acid, buying a 208-litre feed barrel for the purpose.

After keeping the body in a locked shed in the barrel for one night, then moved it to an abandoned country estate, where he drenched the body in 45 liters of hydrochloric acid and more than six kilograms of caustic soda, hoping to dissolve the corpse.

The barrel was too heavy to move, however, so he split the contents into two smaller barrels, which he then buried, only to dig them up again, cut the remaining parts of the body into smaller pieces, burn them, then bury the remaining bones. 

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Jakobsen disappeared on the morning of October 26 last year and was reported missing by her sister the next day. Gotthard then told police last year that she had left the couple’s house in a depressed state, leaving her phone and bank cards behind.

But he was taken into custody three weeks later after police found caustic soda and hydrochloric acid in the couple’s house, and discovered that he had searched for terms like “sea depth,” “oil barrels,” “suicide,” “disappeared” and “cleaning” on the family computer.

Once he was in police custody, Jakobsen was suspended from his position as a parish priest.

Police also discovered that Gotthard had cleaned his car on October 26th, the day of his wife’s disappearance, and found CCTV footage showing him disposing of a big blue plastic barrel at the recycling centre in Frederikssund on November 6th.

On April 27 this year, he was charged with murder and for disposing of the body that had not yet been found.

On June 3rd, Gotthard led the police to the place where he had buried his wife’s bones, with the remains later confirmed to be hers through DNA analysis. 

In his summation of the case, the prosecutors called for Gotthard to receive the maximum 15-year sentence, while the defender has called for 13 years. 

“The only thing he regrets is that he was caught,” Seerup said, arguing that Gotthard had only led police to the place where he buried the body because he knew they were already searching in the vicinity. “The police were right on his heels. They had discovered the connection to Sundbylille.”  


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