A German court on Tuesday handed a life sentence to a 33-year-old security guard who admitted to abducting, sexually abusing and murdering two boys - one of them a 4-year-old Bosnian refugee.

The court in Potsdam handed Silvio S, whose full name was withheld due to privacy laws, the maximum sentence for his crimes, which shocked the country last year and drew attention to the chaotic conditions at the refugee registration centre in Berlin from where the boy was abducted.

A life sentence in Germany is an indefinite amount of time, but at least 15 years long.

The leading judge in the case described Silvio S's crimes as "incomprehensible," and said his guilt in the case was "particularly severe." This will make it harder for him to be released early on good behaviour.

Silvio S was arrested in October after police found the body of 4-year-old Mohamed in the man's car. Silvio's mother alerted the authorities after seeing high-resolution closed circuit television footage of him.

Silvio S admitted to abducting the child outside the Lageso refugee registration centre in northern Berlin, sexually abusing him in his car and subsequently strangling him to death with a belt.

The disappearance of Mohamed, whose family came to Germany in 2014 to seek asylum, triggered a large-scale police search and drew significant media attention, partly because of Lageso's perceived inability to register and adequately house arriving migrants.

Silvio S later admitted to abducting a 6-year-old German boy, Elias, several months earlier from a playground outside the boy's home in the city of Potsdam. He said he sexually abused the boy before killing him and burying his body in a garden allotment.

"There are no words in the world to describe how sorry I am," Silvio S said in court on Tuesday, addressing the victims' families. "If I could undo what I did, I would. I will never forgive myself."

Mohamed's mother lurched out of her seat during Tuesday's session and began shouting at the defendant. She was restrained by several judicial officers and taken outside the courtroom.

The man, who has no prior convictions, has been deemed criminally liable. Investigators say he planned the crimes meticulously and practised with dummies, which were found in his home.

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