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Sunday, February 5, 2023

Wealthy Dominatrix’s Killer Uses ‘50 Shades of Grey’ Defense

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ROME—In a brightly lit courtroom in the conservative Swiss city of Lugano, a jury is learning the intricacies of kinky sex and erotic asphyxiation to decide whether the death of a wealthy British heiress was motivated by pleasure or pain.

Anna Reed, the 22-year-old victim of this sordid tale, was found strangled to death on the marble floor of a bathroom in the swanky four-star Hotel La Palma au Lac on the shores of Lake Maggiore on the border between Italy and Switzerland in April 2019. Her erstwhile boyfriend, 29-year-old former bouncer Marc Schatzle—whose tattoos run the gamut from FTW (Fuck the World) to ACAB (All Cops Are Bastards), readily admits he killed her—but insists he didn’t mean to.

On Thursday, the German was decked out in an army coat with ornamental shoulder pads, according to a source in the courtroom. Schatzle described the details of their last night together in a legal strategy that has been dubbed a “50 Shades of Grey” defense, named after the popular book and film that brought the ins and outs of sadomasochistic sex to a mainstream audience.

Schatzle insists Reed was into kinky sexual encounters, and was a regular patron of Berlin’s storied KitKat Club, where public sex with strangers is encouraged. The fetish club nearly closed in 2019 but managed to stay open by charging for livestreams of the pornographic partiers. Reed, whose social media moniker was “Berlin Baby” before it was taken down, had posted various shots of herself inside the club. She also posted dozens of shots of herself with Schatzle in what made them appear to be a loving couple.

The two met in Thailand three months before Reed’s death, when the young socialite was on a stopover as part of a round-the-world trip— a 21st birthday gift from her father Clive Reed, a wealthy British horse breeder who is estimated to be worth upwards of $35 million. Reed’s mother died after falling down a staircase when her daughter was just 17. The young woman was so traumatized she dropped out of high school, according to her friends. Reed’s father and surviving sister Millie have refrained from commenting on the details surrounding Anna’s untimely death, though a friend of the dead woman’s sister, journalist Olivia Utley, says Reed is not at all as the press has painted her. “I happened to know Miss Reed a little—her sister, Millie, was my friend and housemate at university, and Anna came to visit several times in our first year,” she wrote in an op-ed on the The Article, last year “ She was chatty, funny and super bright… I remember being jealous of her drive and ambition.”

Schatzle, whose shaved head highlights the word “Warrior” tattooed above his left eye, was nearly $75,000 in debt when they met thanks to an alleged cocaine habit so well known he called himself Marc Dirtywhite—a term used for raw or unprocessed cocaine—on his social media channels, the court heard.

Those inside the courtroom say they watched the tattoo “Fuck The World” engraved on his knuckles as he demonstrated how he had first put a towel around Reed’s neck, and then added pressure at her request as they had sex on the floor—before he accidentally strangled her. “We had sex on the bathroom floor. I put a towel around Anna’s neck,” he told the court, according to transcripts seen by The Daily Beast. “Then I pressed my hands towards it with her hands on my wrists, as we had done a hundred times before. Suddenly she stopped moving. Her tongue was sticking out. I tried to revive her.”

Schatzle then says he ran down to the reception desk, where witnesses at the hotel say he repeatedly punched his head with his fists, screaming to them that his “girlfriend had turned blue.” The hotel says he came down at 6:30 a.m. By the time the ambulance arrived a few minutes later, Reed was already dead.

Five months after her death, cleaners at the hotel found Reed’s Platinum credit card hidden in the fluorescent ceiling tile of the hotel elevator. Schatzle’s fingerprints were on it, but he told the court that he had hidden it there “as a joke” in front of Reed after he said she insisted on paying for everything. It is unclear when he put it there, but the last charge on the hotel room was a $145 bottle of champagne the two shared before retiring to their room for the final time. “We took the elevator to the fifth floor. We teased each other. It was about her credit card and about paying everything,” Schatzle told the court. “So I held it up just for fun. She slipped into the light…” When asked why he disclosed this only after the card was found five months after his arrest he told the court, “You wouldn’t have believed me anyway.”

The jury heard from a number of witnesses during the trial, which is expected to end with a verdict next week. A former boyfriend told the court that it seemed odd that Reed would play the submissive role as she was often a dominatrix in their past encounters. Reached by The Daily Beast, the boyfriend confirmed that he did not envision Reed in that role. “She liked to be in charge sexually,” he said. “I cannot imagine she would ever be the one being choked.”

Another boyfriend said he could not see Reed ever being involved in that kind of sex, though she did like to party. “Anna was a happy and ­charming girl. She was wealthy but she wasn’t arrogant with her money,” he told the court, according to transcripts. “We would go to sex parties but there was nothing ever extreme or violent. To be fair, she went to the clubs and parties more for the ­dancing, as she loved dancing.”

During the last court hearing for the defense, the suspect’s lawyer Ysar Ravi gently guided him to describe the couple’s passionate relationship, painting a picture of habitual eroticism that simply went wrong. “How often did you have sex that night on April 9, 2019?” he asked, according to court transcripts. “Was there oral sex? Was the sex consensual? How exactly did the choke game come about?” Schatzle vaguely answered each question and again repeated that it wasn’t the first time they had used erotic asphyxiation. Ravi underscored that such a death was not rare. Hundreds of people die each year during this dangerous eroticism, including Kill Bill actor David Carradine and INXS lead singer Michael Hutchence. Ravi insists that Reed is among those who took things just a little too far.

In his final statement before final arguments next week, Ravi pleaded with the court to overlook his client’s appearance and judge the case on the facts. “Certainly my client is not a saint but he’s not capable of murdering someone,” he said. “Anna’s death was unexpected and sudden. It was undoubtedly negligence but it was a sexual practice they had both shared before.”

Lead prosecutor Petra Canonica Alexakis is asking for 19 years for the charge of murder. She will give closing arguments next week before the jury deliberates, and insists Schatzle knew very well that Reed’s bank account could give him a life he couldn’t obtain alone. She says Reed doubled her expenditures since meeting Schatzle, spending around $10,000 a month on expensive hotels, meals and travel. She told the court Reed had told him she wanted to break up, which is why he killed her. “Marc Schatzle liked the good life, the holidays and all the trappings, but he alone couldn’t afford it,” Alexakis told the court. “After he met Anna, his life had an upgrade. She was ideal for him—beautiful, charming and, crucially, rich. He killed her for a financial motive because the night she died they had argued and she had threatened to leave him. He invented the charade of a sex game to save his own skin.”

The court also heard that neighbors to the couple’s suite heard a loud argument the night of the murder, some three hours before Schatzle went down to the reception hall. They also reported hearing furniture being overturned and glass being broken. The court also heard evidence that could compromise the prosecution’s case including how the initial forensic police botched Reed’s autopsy which resulted in an inconclusive time of death, and a potential loophole for the suspect.

The trial will conclude next week with a verdict expected on Thursday.

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