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CRIME

Solar panel thieves focus on rural roofs

Organised gangs of thieves have become so expert in removing solar panels from rural roofs that the police force in Lower Saxony has formed a special task force to fight it.

Solar panel thieves focus on rural roofs
Photo:DPA

Last year a series of 30 solar panel thefts were registered in the Emsland region, causing losses of several hundred thousand euros, Der Spiegel reported this weekend.

In particular a series of thefts were noted along the A31 motorway, where many chicken production facilities have sublet their roof space for solar panels, sharing in the profit created when electricity is sold to the grid.

“The facilities are easy to reach, but at the same time remote enough that the thieves are not disturbed while they work,” Lingen police spokesperson Achim van Remmerden said.

Two officers in the Emsland region are working full-time on the thefts.

Up to 30 solar modules are stolen each night. “That is as many as one can fit into a small truck,” said van Remmerden.

The thefts are cleverly orchestrated and the panels are always removed with what appears to be expert knowledge, he added.

Three men were arrested early in September, accused of stealing around 250 solar panels worth €200,000 from the Ruhr region. They attempted to sell the stolen modules online.

The solar energy promotion association in Germany has recommended that solar panels be stamped with a unique number, and runs a register of numbers and owners. The association recommends that buyers be on the lookout for suspicious products.

“If the modules are, for example, no longer properly packed, one should be a little sceptical and inform oneself via the internet,” association spokesperson Petra Hörstmann-Jungemann said.

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CRIME

German man jailed for killing petrol station worker in mask row

A 50-year-old German man was jailed for life Tuesday for shooting dead a petrol station cashier because he was angry about being told to wear a mask while buying beer.

German man jailed for killing petrol station worker in mask row

The September 2021 murder in the western town of Idar-Oberstein shocked Germany, which saw a vocal anti-mask and anti-vaccine movement emerge in response to the government’s coronavirus restrictions.

The row started when 20-year-old student worker Alex W. asked the man to put on a mask inside the shop, as required in all German stores at the time.

After a brief argument, the man left.

The perpetrator – identified only as Mario N. – returned about an hour and a half later, this time wearing a mask. But as he bought his six-pack of beer to the till, he took off his mask and another argument ensued.

He then pulled out a revolver and shot the cashier in the head point-blank.

On Tuesday, the district court in Bad-Kreuznach convicted Mario N. of murder and unlawful possession of a firearm, and handed him a life sentence.

READ ALSO: Shock in Germany after cashier shot dead in Covid mask row

Under German law, people given a life sentence can usually seek parole after 15 years. His defence team had sought a sentence of manslaughter, rather than murder.

At the start of the trial, prosecutor Nicole Frohn told how Mario N. had felt increasingly angry about the measures imposed to curb the pandemic, seeing them as an infringement on his rights.

“Since he knew he couldn’t reach the politicians responsible, he decided to kill him (Alex W.),” she said.

Mario N. turned himself in to police the day after the shooting.

German has relaxed most of its coronavirus rules, although masks are still required in some settings, such as public transport.

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