School shooting victims to share €2m insurance

Victims and relatives of one of Germany's worst school shootings will share €2 million in compensation payments, it was confirmed on Wednesday.

School shooting victims to share €2m insurance
Grieving in Winnenden. Photo: DPA

Tim Kretschmer was 17 when he killed 15 people in and around his school in Winnenden, near Stuttgart, before killing himself during a face-off with the police.

Now, more than four years later, Allianz, the insurance company which provided the Kretschmer family's liability insurance, has agreed terms with lawyers representing those injured, and relatives of those who were killed in the massacre.

"The liability insurance for personal damage in this case is for €2 million and that has been paid," an Allianz spokeswoman told The Local.

"The limit was decided upon by the policy holder when the insurance was started, and cannot be altered. We are now working with lawyers for the victims and relatives to agree on a fair division of the money."

The Stuttgarter Nachrichten newspaper quoted Jens Rabe, the lawyer representing several victims, saying, "Everything has been wrapped up."

But the legal action is far from over for the Kretschmer family, with Winnenden town council still pursuing compensation payments, it confirmed on Tuesday.

The family has rejected all settlement suggestions, and were not "in any way" prepared to take part in compensation payments, the council told the paper.

Winnenden town and Baden-Württemberg state would have been ready to make great compromises in order to reach an agreement, the town council said.

The family's insurer had offered to contribute what the town described as a "six-figure sum", but every potential solution had been rejected by the parents, the town said.

On March 1st 2009, Kretschmer took a handgun from his father's bedside, and a load of ammunition, to his school where he shot dead nine pupils and three teachers.

He then killed a passer-by near a psychiatric clinic where he had been due himself to receive treatment, before hijacking a car and forcing the driver to take him to a car dealership.

There he killed two more people before police arrived and he shot himself.

Kretschmer's father was convicted in 2011 of 15 counts of manslaughter due to culpable negligence, for leaving the weapon in an unlocked cupboard in the bedroom.

And last May Winnenden lawyers said they would sue the mother for what they said was her shared responsibility for the gun, and for the fact she knew her son had psychological problems when he carried out the massacre.

The intention was for local authorities to demand €9.3 million in damages to cover costs of restoring the Albertville school following the massacre, as well as renting a replacement building during the restoration and psychological counselling for survivors.

Mrs Kretschmer's lawyer said in May she would contest the claim, saying she could not be expected to keep watch over her son 24 hours a day.

The Kretschmers were reported last summer to be preparing to sue the psychological clinic in Weinsberg which had been treating Tim at the time of the massacre. If they get the €8.8 million they are asking for, it will all go to the relatives of the dead, and the injured.

READ MORE: Winnenden massacre parents call for changes

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Does Austria have a problem with violence against women? 

Austria is the only EU country where more women have been killed than men in 2021. Is this a statistical anomaly or does it speak to a deeper problem in Austrian society?

Photo by Sydney Sims on Unsplash
Photo by Sydney Sims on Unsplash

In early May, a 50-year-old woman and her 76-year old mother were shot and killed in the Salzburg Flachgau region.

Just days before, a woman was killed in Vienna.

This led to demonstrations against ‘femicide’ (the murder of women) in the capital and prompted the Minister of Social Affairs Wolfgang Mückstein to says, as the father of two daughters, he was “sad and angry” about the deaths.

More women than men killed in Austria

So far this year 11 women have been murdered in Austria, making it the only EU country in which more women were killed than men

While across the European Union 65 percent of those killed are male, more women than men were killed in Austria in 2021 – as well as 2015 and 2016.

READ MORE: Outrage in Austria over ninth woman is murdered in 2021

This has led some to ask whether there is a problem with violence against women culturally embedded in Austrian society. 

Little consensus

Despite widespread political and academic discussion on the topic, there is no consensus on why murders of women are so prevalent in Austria. 

Austrian writer Gerhard Ruiss, who created the initiative ‘Femicide – It’s All About Us’, told Germany’s Süddeutsche Zeitung that violence protection projects and women’s shelters are chronically underfunded in Austria. 

Ruiss also indicated that an assessment of femicides often shows major police failings, particularly as the offenders often have long histories of violence and are “known to the authorities”. 

However, a representative of the Archdiocese of Vienna claimed in a Die Presse newspaper comment piece that Austria did not have an unusual level of femicide in a European comparison, saying the country was “only remarkable” because it recorded very few murders of men in an international comparison.

Home ‘most dangerous’ place

Speaking to The Local, Teresa Ulleram of domestic violence charity Wiener Interventionsstelle gegen Gewalt in der Familie (Vienna Intervention Centre against Violence in the Family), agreed this could be the reason women seemed to be statistically more likely to be murdered than men.

“Most murders here do not happen on the streets or in public spaces, but actually at home, ” she said. “Domestic or family violence is a phenomenon that is primarily directed against women and children.”

Ulleram said in the vast majority of cases of femicide, the perpetrators are male, and are even often close relatives.

Not necessarily related to immigration

Despite claims to the contrary by some political parties, the statistics show the increase in murders is not necessarily related to immigration.

In 2020, the suspects in all femicides were Austrians in 21 out of 26 cases. In the year before, 22 of the 43 suspects were Austrians, Der Standard reports. 

Maria Rösslhumer, the Head of the Association of Autonomous Austrian Women’s Shelters, told Zett magazine that the problem was too widespread in Austrian society to be blamed on immigrants. 

“Politicians try to play down violence against women by increasingly labelling it as an “imported problem” that came to Austria through migration. But that’s not true,” she said.

“There is a problem in Austria with violence against women that cannot be reduced to migrants. Every fifth woman experiences physical or sexual violence in her life.”

Do Austria’s gun laws need reform?

The Local has reported previously on Austria’s relatively relaxed laws on gun ownership. 

In May, Austrian gun manufacturer Glock prompted outrage with an advert in which a gun was shown in a Mother’s Day advert. 

EXPLAINED: Why is gun ownership in Austria on the rise?

However, Ulleram was not convinced stricter gun laws would make the problem disappear. She said more gun control was “important” but perpetrators also used weapons such as knives or even their own hands to commit murders. 

Although Austria signed the Istanbul Convention (an international treaty creating binding legal norms against violence against women and domestic violence) in 2011 and ratified it in 2013, not all the conventions recommendations and measures have been implemented yet in Austria, Ulleram said. 

She called for a variety of measures to prevent femicides – such as more budgeting for victim protection institutions, and greater funding for the police and justice. 

‘Very good laws’

One positive aspect is women in Austria are protected by “very good laws,” Ulleram said women were particularly vulnerable just before or after a separation.

In Austria the Protection Against Violence Act was passed in 1997, and since then, women no longer have to automatically leave their homes and go to a women’s shelter in the case of violence in the home. Instead perpetrators can be made to leave by the police. 

Last week, a government round table took place at which a package of measures against violence against women and to strengthen violence prevention was decided.

More money will be made available for violence protection institutions and for work with perpetrators such as men’s counselling.

Violence against women can be attributed to ‘many causes’

However, these more steps will not totally address the most fundamental root cause of violence identified by domestic violence charities  – the patriarchy.

Ulleram said that violence against women can be attributed to many causes, and in Austria was “deeply” embedded in patriarchal and historically developed social structures. 

One telling statistic is that Austria is still one of the EU countries with the largest gender pay gap between women and men.