German man jailed for life over car attack on carnival

A German man received a life sentence on Thursday for ramming his car through a carnival procession last year, injuring dozens of bystanders including children.

A view of the street in Volkmarsen where Maurice P. drove through crowds during the Rosenmontag parade in 2020.
A view of the street in Volkmarsen where Maurice P. drove through crowds during the Rosenmontag parade in 2020. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Uwe Zucchi

The regional court in Kassel found Maurice P., 31, guilty of tearing through the traditional Shrove Monday (Rosenmontag) parade in the central town of Volkmarsen in February 2020 without braking.

He was convicted of 89 counts of attempted murder and 88 counts of grievous bodily harm.

Maurice P. remained silent throughout the trial, leaving his possible motive a mystery.

However a psychological analysis of the defendant based on his court appearances and job centre files found evidence of paranoia and schizophrenia.

Prosecutors told the court at the start of his trial in May it had been Maurice P.’s intention to kill a “large number of people” and he had accelerated so quickly that his tyres screeched. They said the rampage was premeditated.

READ ALSO: Around 30 hurt as car rams carnival parade

Several people were hurtled into the air as the car tore along 42 metres (yards) of the parade at around 50 kilometres (30 miles) per hour. Children as young as three were dragged under the vehicle, they said.

Passers-by eventually managed to stop the rampage by opening the car doors, pulling out Maurice P. and holding him until he was arrested.

He had parked his car in a strategic position the day before the parade, the court found, and had installed a dashcam to film the crime.

He was not under the influence of alcohol, medication or drugs, authorities said at the time.

Germany has been on high alert for car ramming attacks since December 2016, when an Islamic State group sympathiser ploughed a truck through a Christmas market leaving 12 dead.

The country has seen several such attacks since with most carried out by people who were found to have psychological issues.

In December 2020, a German man ploughed his car through a pedestrian shopping street in the southwestern city of Trier, killing five people including a baby.

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 crashed 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.

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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.