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Baby among four killed as car runs down shoppers in German city of Trier

A baby was among four people killed and 15 injured when a car tore through a pedestrian shopping street in the southwestern German city of Trier on Tuesday, police said, after arresting the driver.

Baby among four killed as car runs down shoppers in German city of Trier
Police near the scene of the incident on Tuesday afternoon. Photo: DPA

Prosecutor Peter Fritzen said the driver, a 51-year-old Trier native, appeared to be suffering from “psychiatric problems” and had been under the influence of alcohol whilst at the wheel of his silver SUV.

Police, who have been questioning the suspect, said they had “no indications of a political motive”.

Prosecutors are considering requesting that the suspect be placed in psychiatric care, Fritzen told reporters.

At the same press conference, Trier mayor Wolfram Leibe said among the dead
were a nine-month-old baby and a 73-year-old woman.

READ ALSO: Two killed as car hits shoppers in German city of Trier

“I think this is Trier's darkest day since World War II,” he said.

Also killed were a 25-year-old woman and a 45-year-old man. Fifteen people
were injured, several seriously.

Malu Dreyer, premier of the state of Rhineland-Palatinate where Trier is located, expressed shock that a baby was among those killed by the driver's “insane act” and shared her condolences with all the affected families.

The baby's mother was being treated in hospital for injuries sustained in the rampage.

Witnesses had earlier described seeing people, including a young child in a stroller, being flung into the air as the car struck them.

'Traumatised'

The incident started around 1:50 pm and ended within four minutes of the first emergency calls arriving, with police intercepting the driver after he turned right off a main shopping street.

Police said he had ploughed through the streets for about a kilometre, leaving behind a trail of destruction.

Officers sealed off the area and cleared people from the city centre.

Smartphone footage from an eyewitness showed the arrest of the driver, who was seen lying face down on the street pinned down by several officers next to the damaged SUV.

He was the sole occupant of the vehicle.

An unnamed man who said he was a former neighbour of the suspect told NTV that the driver had a history of mental issues, as well as money worries and problems “with his father”.

Christmas shopping

Chancellor Angela Merkel voiced her “great sadness” at the events in Trier and said her thoughts were with the relatives of those who were “so suddenly and violently ripped from their lives” and with the injured, in a message shared by her spokesman.

Early footage from the scene showed stunned shoppers huddling outside stores festooned with Christmas decorations as sirens blared in the distance.

Debris from stalls and outdoor displays was strewn along the cobbled street.

Picturesque Trier, near the border with Luxembourg, traces its history back to the Roman Empire and is often called Germany's oldest city.

Although Germany is grappling with a second coronavirus wave that has forced restaurants, bars, sports and cultural centres to close, retailers have been allowed to stay open and many people were out Christmas shopping.

“It's lucky that the Christmas market has been cancelled because of corona, or it could have been much worse,” witness Frederic Fries told Welt TV.

The incident brought back memories of a truck rampage at a Berlin Christmas market that left 12 people dead in 2016, Germany's deadliest Islamist attack to date.

In January 2019, a German man injured eight people when he drove into crowds on New Year's Eve in the western cities of Bottrop and Essen. He was later taken into psychiatric care.

In April 2018, a German man ploughed his van into people seated outside a restaurant in the city of Münster, killing five before shooting himself dead. Investigators later said he had mental health problems.

READ ALSO: Ramming attack in Münster: What we know

 

Member comments

  1. I wonder why most of the driving incident culprits are labeled as mentally sick? Even though it is reported that the person had a history of such acts, why does he still have a driving license in his conditions.
    I am not sure the authorities being sorry is enough for the mother who lost her kid.

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GERMANY AND ISRAEL

Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

The German government says it is in talks over further compensation for victims of the attack on the Munich Olympics, as the 50th anniversary of the atrocity approaches.

Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

Ahead of the commemoration in September, relatives of the Israelis killed have indicated they are unhappy with what Germany is offering.

“Conversations based on trust are taking place with representatives of the victims’ families,” a German interior ministry spokesman told AFP when asked about the negotiations.

He did not specify who would benefit or how much money had been earmarked, saying only that any package would “again” be financed by the federal government, the state of Bavaria and the city of Munich.

On September 5th, 1972, eight gunmen broke into the Israeli team’s flat at the Olympic village, shooting dead two and taking nine Israelis hostage, threatening to kill them unless 232 Palestinian prisoners were released.

West German police responded with a bungled rescue operation in which all nine hostages were killed, along with five of the eight hostage-takers and a police officer.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists  held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Horst Ossingert

The spokeswoman for the victims’ families, Ankie Spitzer, told the German media group RND that the amount currently on the table was “insulting” and threatened a boycott of this year’s commemorations.

She said Berlin was offering a total of €10 million including around €4.5 million already provided in compensation between 1972 and 2002 — an amount she said did not correspond to international standards. 

“We are angry and disappointed,” said Spitzer, the widow of fencing coach Andre Spitzer who was killed in the attack. “We never wanted to talk publicly about money but now we are forced to.”

RND reported that the German and Israeli governments would like to see an accord by August 15th.

The interior ministry spokesman said that beyond compensation, Germany intended to use the anniversary for fresh “historical appraisal, remembrance and recognition”.

He said this would include the formation of a commission of German and Israeli historians to “comprehensively” establish what happened “from the perspective of the year 2022”.

This would lead to “an offer of further acts of acknowledgement of the relatives of the victims of the attack” and the “grave consequences” they suffered.

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