The driver who killed five people in a German car rampage on Tuesday was under the influence of alcohol and appeared to have psychiatric problems, prosecutors revealed last night.
The 51-year-old German, named in media reports as Bernd Walter W, was believed to have been living in the Range Rover which he drove into pedestrians in a shopping street in Trier, killing a baby girl and four others.
In what the city’s mayor described as ‘Trier’s darkest day since World War II’, witnesses described seeing people flung off the ground and the child’s pram flying through the air during the four-minute rampage.
As well as the nine-month-old baby, the victims included a 45-year-old man and two women aged 25 and 73, while at least 15 others were injured including the mother of the dead girl.
The suspect, who is due to appear before a judge today, is said to be talking in police interviews – with authorities assessing whether he is mentally stable enough to be held criminally liable.
In one Facebook post reportedly sent soon before the rampage, he wrote: ‘It should say on my gravestone – save your tears, where were you when I was alive?’.
The man had spent the last few nights in the vehicle and did not seem to have a fixed address, Trier deputy police chief Franz-Dieter Ankner said. He had borrowed the vehicle, which was registered in someone else’s name, but did not appear to have previous convictions.
After his name emerged on Tuesday, reports described him as an unemployed electrician remembered by neighbours as a ‘strange individual’ who was known to drink at a local kebab shop and had lived with his mother before her death a few years ago.
The Range Rover involved in Tuesday’s rampage in Trier is hoisted away from the scene where it was stopped and its driver arrested after he ploughed into pedestrians in a shopping street, killing five people and injuring more than a dozen others
Evidence lies on a cordoned-off street following the rampage in Trier yesterday by a driver who police said was under the influence of alcohol and may have have psychiatric problems
Emergency workers inspect the damage in Trier after the SUV driver turned into a pedestrian street and ran people down
A fireman stands over a single shoe in the pedestrian zone in Trier which was targeted by a Range Rover driver on Tuesday
A woman leaves a candle in tribute for the victims last night following what was described as Trier’s darkest day since the war
A wrecked child’s pram is seen on the pedestrian street in Trier on Tuesday, after witnesses described seeing a buggy flung into the air and authorities confirmed that a young girl had died in the attack
The driver is pinned to the ground next to the Range Rover believed to have run over pedestrians in Trier, killing at least four people in what police say was a deliberate attack
Police said the driver had ploughed through the streets for more than half a mile, leaving behind a trail of destruction in a pedestrian area which would usually be hosting a popular Christmas market.
He was pinned down and arrested near the city’s old Roman gate four minutes after the rampage began and was in custody last night as police try to establish his motive.
Prosecutor Peter Fritzen said the man had drunk a significant amount of alcohol, adding that prosecutors were considering moving him to psychiatric care.
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.
He had once belonged to a shooting club but had not been seen there for years and was not thought to own a weapon, the head of the club told t-online.
Mayor Wolfram Leibe said: ‘It looks as if we are talking about a suspect with mental issues, but we should not pass premature judgement.’
After the mayor, his voice breaking with emotion, revealed that a young girl was among the dead, cathedral bells were rung and a memorial service held for the victims on Tuesday evening.
A mangled pram stood in the wreckage last night after officers sealed off the area and gathered evidence, while the Range Rover was hoisted away from the street where police had brought it under control hours earlier.
While authorities have not described it as a terror act, and security sources said they had no evidence of a ‘political backdrop’ to the attack, the incident has brought back memories of the 2016 Christmas market rampage in Berlin in which 12 people were killed.
The car is thought to have driven around half a mile through a pedestrian area near the Porta Nigra, an old Roman gate
Debris was strewn around near an ambulance while emergency workers responded to the deadly incident in Trier
Rescue workers and onlookers stand near the scene in a pedestrian area which in a normal December would be full of people at the city’s popular Christmas market
Armed police in the cordoned-off pedestrian street as authorities investigated following the deadly rampage in Trier
Germany has seen both Islamist and far-right attacks in recent years, and just yesterday more than 180 officers were involved in a raid against a banned neo-Nazi group known for its racist and anti-Semitic ideology.
However, officials said at a Tuesday night press conference that they had ‘no indication that there was any kind of a terrorist, political or religious motive that could have played a role.’
Police said there was no further danger to Trier residents after the driver’s arrest, suggesting that he had acted alone. He was arrested four minutes after the first emergency call, authorities said.
Police spokesman Karl-Peter Jochem said the driver had ‘indiscriminately’ run people down after turning into the pedestrian area.
The numbers of dead and injured were still becoming clear on Tuesday evening, but the death toll had already risen from two to five.
In addition to the injured people, there were many other ‘traumatised’ pedestrians who were in shock after witnessing what had happened, the mayor said.
‘We often see pictures like this on television and think that can’t happen here. Now it’s happened in Trier,’ the mayor told reporters near the Porta Nigra.
Police in forensic gear work in the city centre after darkness fell following the deliberate attack in Trier on Tuesday
Police look on as rescuers push an injured person into an ambulance at the scene where a car drove into pedestrians
The silver Range Rover believed to have been used in Tuesday’s deliberate attack on pedestrians in Trier
The Range Rover is lifted onto a truck to be taken away by police officers after darkness fell in Trier on Tuesday evening
Emergency services at the scene of the crash in a pedestrian area which has been sealed off
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman called the attack ‘shocking’ and said the government’s thoughts were with the injured people and relatives of victims.
Regional premier Malu Dreyer, who arrived at the scene on Tuesday evening, said she was deeply shaken by the events in the historic city which she described as her home town.
After the driver’s arrest, officers warned people to avoid the scene, and said they were on the scene alongside ambulance crews while helicopters were also hovering over the city.
Shoppers were seen huddling outside stores festooned with Christmas decorations, while sirens could be heard in the distance. Emergency services from nearby Luxembourg were also said to be on the scene.
While Trier is usually home to one of Germany’s most popular Christmas markets, the event was cancelled this year because of the pandemic.
Although bars and restaurants have closed under a so-called ‘lockdown light’ to bring down infections, shops and schools have remained open, unlike during the spring.
The incident brought back memories of the 2016 truck rampage at a Berlin Christmas market that left 12 people dead. The driver on that occasion, a failed Tunisian asylum seeker, was a supporter of the Islamic State jihadist group.
In August 2019, six people were injured in a series of motorway accidents in Berlin in what prosecutors described as a suspected Islamist attack.
A square is blocked by police and fire engines following the incident in Trier on Tuesday
A crowd of emergency workers in the pedestrian street which in a normal December would be full of Christmas shoppers
An armed police officer speaks to a firefighter near the scene of Tuesday’s attack which lasted around four minutes
People look at debris outside a shopfront in the pedestrian area in Trier where at least two people were killed on Tuesday
Emergency services at the scene following what police said was a deliberate attack on Tuesday afternoon
A square is blocked by the police in Trier, where authorities are securing evidence and dealing with injured and traumatised people