German police widen nursery ‘murder’ probe as other cases emerge

German police investigating the death of a child at a kindergarten said Thursday they were widening a probe against a teacher after similar near-fatal incidents were uncovered at her previous workplaces.

German police widen nursery 'murder' probe as other cases emerge
A stone with the words 'you are always in our hearts' outside the Kita in Viersen. Photo: DPA

A 25-year-old teacher at the kindergarten in the western town of Viersen near Düsseldorf in North Rhine-Westphalia was arrested on suspicion of murder after three-year-old Greta died from respiratory failure on May 4th.

Lead investigator Guido Rosskamp said the probe into three other kindergartens where the 25-year-old had worked found “to their horror that there were similar incidents” at each of the facilities.

Asked about the suspect, her previous employers or colleagues have wondered “why such a person who lacks empathy with children would want to take on such a job,” added the investigator.

A first assault may have been committed in November 2017 against a three-year-old boy, said investigators.

The suspect had informed her colleagues then that there was something wrong with the child.

In that case and other incidents, the children were found unconscious, with first-aid workers reporting that their eyes were already rolled upwards, investigators said.

Separately, criminal police had also had the suspect on their file as she had in May 2019 falsely accused a man of inflicting cuts on her face with a knife.

A forensic specialist had found subsequently that the suspect was responsible for the injuries, leading the authorities to recommend psychiatric help for her.

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Calls for special police tactics to be available across Sweden

The chairwoman of the Police Association West Region has said that police special tactics, known as Särskild polistaktik or SPT, should be available across Sweden, to use in demonstrations similar to those during the Easter weekend.

Calls for special police tactics to be available across Sweden

SPT, (Särskild polistaktik), is a tactic where the police work with communication rather than physical measures to reduce the risk of conflicts during events like demonstrations.

Tactics include knowledge about how social movements function and how crowds act, as well as understanding how individuals and groups act in a given situation. Police may attempt to engage in collaboration and trust building, which they are specially trained to do.

Katharina von Sydow, chairwoman of the Police Association West Region, told Swedish Radio P4 West that the concept should exist throughout the country.

“We have nothing to defend ourselves within 10 to 15 metres. We need tools to stop this type of violent riot without doing too much damage,” she said.

SPT is used in the West region, the South region and in Stockholm, which doesn’t cover all the places where the Easter weekend riots took place.

In the wake of the riots, police unions and the police’s chief safety representative had a meeting with the National Police Chief, Anders Tornberg, and demanded an evaluation of the police’s work. Katharina von Sydow now hopes that the tactics will be introduced everywhere.

“This concept must exist throughout the country”, she said.

During the Easter weekend around 200 people were involved in riots after a planned demonstration by anti-Muslim Danish politician Rasmus Paludan and his party Stram Kurs (Hard Line), that included the burning of the Muslim holy book, the Koran.

Police revealed on Friday that at least 104 officers were injured in counter-demonstrations that they say were hijacked by criminal gangs intent on targeting the police. 

Forty people were arrested and police are continuing to investigate the violent riots for which they admitted they were unprepared. 

Paludan’s application for another demonstration this weekend was rejected by police.

In Norway on Saturday, police used tear gas against several people during a Koran-burning demonstration after hundreds of counter-demonstrators clashed with police in the town of Sandefjord.