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Germany still clueless about motive for fatal van crash

Inside the van, police found illegal firecrackers which were disguised as a fake bomb, a fake pistol and the gun that the perpetrator used to kill himself.

world Updated: Apr 08, 2018 20:05 IST
Associated Press
Associated Press
Associated Press, Muenster
Germany,German van crash,Islamic extremist motive
Police guard in downtown Muenster, Germany, Saturday.(AP Photo)

Prosecutors said Sunday they still have no indication why a 48-year-old German man drove a van into a crowd of people in the western German city of Muenster, killing two and injuring 20 before shooting himself to death inside the van.

“As of now, we don’t have any leads regarding a possible background for the deed,” prosecutor Martin Botzenhardt wrote in a joint statement with police. “The investigations are being led under high pressure in all possible directions.”

Authorities have identified the two fatalities of Saturday’s crash as a 51-year-old woman from Lueneburg County and a 65-year-old man from Broken County. Their names weren’t given as is customary in Germany.

Local media have identified the perpetrator as an industrial designer living in Muenster who had been suffering from psychological problems, but police wouldn’t confirm those details.

All three bodies were taken from the crash scene in front of the well-known Kiepenkerl pub early Sunday night. The silver-grey van was hauled away hours later, after explosives experts had thoroughly checked it.

“The van is not at the crime scene anymore, all kinds of objects have also been removed, waste of course, as well as evidence that we’ve found on the ground,” police spokeswoman Susanne Dirkorte told The Associated Press.

Inside the van, police found illegal firecrackers which were disguised as a fake bomb, a fake pistol and the gun that the perpetrator used to kill himself.

Inside the man’s apartment, which was nearby the crash scene and raided late Saturday, police found more firecrackers and a “no longer usable AK-47 machine gun.”

Police said some of the 20 injured persons were still in life-threatening condition, but did not release further details on their identities.

Special police gather in a street near a place where a man drove a van into a group of people sitting outside a popular restaurant in the old city centre of Muenster, Germany, April 7, 2018. (Reuters Photo)

The local daily Muenstersche Zeitung reported that the perpetrator had vaguely announced his suicide plans a week ago in an email to friends and that he was known to the authorities for previous violence and drug violations, but police wouldn’t confirm any of those details.

The 48-year-old had driven his van into a crowd Saturday afternoon in the historical city center of Muenster. The city was buzzing on one of the first warm spring days of the year and people were sitting outside the Kiepenkerl when he drove into the bar’s tables with such a vengeance that the vehicle only came to a stop when it hit the wall of the pub. Police quickly evacuated the area and ambulances, firefighters and helicopters rushed to the scene to aid those who were injured.

On Saturday night, long queues of volunteers waited in front of the city’s university hospital to donate blood for the victims. At the city’s Aasee Lake, people spontaneously came together for a candlelight vigil.

Later on Sunday, German Interior minister Horst Seehofer is expected to visit the crash scene together with other high-ranking officials.

The city’s Roman Catholic bishop, Felix Glenn, invited all of Muenster’s citizens to a joint Catholic-Lutheran memorial service at the famous Paulus Cathedral on Sunday night.

Muenster is a popular university town with some 300,000 inhabitants. It’s also a known tourist destination, famous for its medieval old town, which was rebuilt after massive destructions during World War II. The Kiepenkerl is not only one of the city’s best-known traditional pubs, but also the emblem of the city, depicting a traveling salesman with a long pipe in his mouth and a big backpack on his back.

First Published: Apr 08, 2018 09:52 IST