An energy firm executive thinks that a rival with a grudge is behind an acid attack that left him hideously disfigured, a court in Germany has heard.
Victim Bernhard Guenther, 55, had to undergo a series of painful operations to reconstruct his face after the attack in 2018.
Guenther had acid thrown in his face during a Sunday morning run in Haan near Dusseldorf.
The tycoon’s neck and the skin around his eyes still bear visible scars, and he wears dark glasses to protect his eyes.
Surgeons think that his sight was only saved because he wears contact lenses.
Accused Nuri T., 42, was eventually linked to DNA left on the acid bottle dropped at the scene of the attack, the Regional Court of Wuppertal heard.
The suspect – a Belgian national who has been a brothel janitor and a mechanic – is facing up to 15 years behind bars for serious intentional bodily harm.
But Nuri T. told the judge: “I got entangled in something I have nothing to do with. I haven’t been involved in all of this.
“I’m a very social person. I would never harm any other human being.”
Referring to the seriously injured businessman and the place where the attack occurred, the defendant added: “I’ve never seen this man in my whole life. I’ve never been to Haan.”
Now Guenther has made his first statement in court since the trial started a few weeks ago.
The married father-of-two said in his three-hour testimony that he was convinced that a personal rival had pulled the strings in the incident.
Guenther told the judge: “There’s just one possible mastermind.”
Guenther said he abstained from jogging on his own after a physical attack back in 2012 had left him with a fractured leg and flesh wounds.
According to the manager, the assault in March 2018 occurred right after the end of the run with some friends as he was about to enter a local bakery.
Guenther told the court that both attacks occurred when the companies he had been working for went through turbulent times.
The executive is convinced that the acid attack was a contract hit.
The first attack took place shortly before he had been appointed as the new CFO of German energy giant RWE.
The assault of 2018 was aimed at derailing a takeover of RWE subsidiary Innogy by competitor E.ON., according to Guenther.
Guenther said in court that he had made a list of who could have been behind the attacks.
He told the court: “All comes down to one name.”
Guenther did not, however, name the person in court but informed state prosecutors about his suspicion.
The businessman also offered an insight into the extraordinary mental stress the attack four years ago caused.
He said: “The world is a different place to me now. After looking into the mirror every morning, I think to myself: ‘That’s not you.’
“I had to undergo several surgeries. These scars will remain. My eyelids will be affected forever.
“I never leave the house without make-up on. I need an extra 10 minutes to get ready.”
Guenther’s eyes had to be stitched up and kept closed for a week before he could undergo an eyelid transplant.
Guenther revealed that he and his wife both took psychiatric counselling for a year.
He added: “I’m optimistic there will be some progress. I hope that, eventually, everything will be solved and we find out who is to blame for this.”
Guenther said he had recently started doing sports again, but pointed out: “I’m sensing an inkling of fear whenever I go for a run.”
His lawyer Martin Meinberg urged the suspect to reveal the truth.
The advocate told Nuri T.: “You could make amends to a substantial degree to Dr Guenther and his family by telling the court who had hired you.”
Meinberg added: “This crime – unprecedented in the history of the German economy – must be solved.”
Police in the North-Rhine Westphalia, western Germany, had given up on the case when Guenther offered a EUR 100,000 reward.
Nuri T. was arrested more than two years after the attack, only following the reward offer and Guenther’s hiring of private detectives.
Guenther said that fears over a potential third attack had left him no choice but to take action.
Judge Richter Holger Jung told the accused: “All evidence suggests that you will be found guilty.
“I would advise you to confess. Such a move could reduce your term.”
The suspect claimed he had slept in on the day of the incident before driving 75 miles to Genk, Belgium, to watch a football match in the afternoon.
Nuri T., however, saw a doctor just a few days later for treatment of a chemical burn on his leg.
While the state prosecutor is convinced that some of the sulphuric acid corroded his skin, the defendant – who sported a black Adidas tracksuit in court – referred to a workplace incident.
The trial continues.