German town of Trier in mourning after SUV driver kills five

Suspect (51) appears before judge after car mowed down pedestrians, with baby among dead

Residents of Trier, Germany have gathered to pay their respects to the five people, including a nine-week-old child, killed by an intoxicated driver who drove an SUV at speed through a pedestrianised area of the city. Video: Reuters

 

The people of Trier gathered in shock on Wednesday before the southwest German city’s Porta Negra, a landmark Roman ruin, to remember the five people killed and 18 injured a day earlier.

Among the dead was a nine-week-old baby girl and her 45-year-old father; the baby’s mother and one-year-old brother are both in a critical condition in hospital.

Police continue to question a 51-year-old local man who they say drove an SUV at more than 70km/h through Trier’s pedestrianised city centre just before 2pm on Tuesday.

After he drove about 1km, striking shoppers and flattening street furniture, police rammed his car to stop him and arrested him when he tried to flee. He spent the night in custody and was brought before a remand judge on Wednesday, where a state prosecutor accused him of using the borrowed vehicle “as a weapon”.

“The court granted an arrest warrant against the suspect in five cases of murder and attempted murder and serious bodily harm in 18 other cases,” said Peter Fritzen, state prosecutor in Trier. “We are working on the assumption that the suspect acted maliciously when he drove through the city centre, giving unsuspecting pedestrians, who became victims, no chance to escape the attack.”

Mayor Wolfram Leibe announced that a second memorial service – and a minute’s silence – will be held on Thursday at 1.46pm – the time of the attack.

‘War zone’

The driver left a trail of destruction that Mr Leibe likened to a “war zone”, and an unprecedented trail of injury that brought to this quiet town near the Luxembourg border the kind of death and horror that “goes beyond the limits of what any person can imagine”.

“Trier is mourning but it is not resigned,” said the mayor, appealing to residents to show solidarity with victims, mourning families and the city authorities assisting them.

“The city is in shock and I hope that, in this situation, the people in Trier will stand together,” said Frank-Walter Steinmeier, German federal president.

Local police say the man has yet to explain his motive for the attack and left behind no letter or other document.

As police reopened the inner city on Wednesday, local residents who came to lay flowers and candles said they were nervous about returning to the pedestrian zone.

“It’s just terrible,” said one unnamed woman to local broadcaster SWR. “You think that, in a small, pretty town like this, nothing like this can happen but . . .”