Germany: Man arrested after car ploughs through city street, killing at least five

Local man with no terrorist links questioned, as at least 15 injured in western city of Trier

Five people, including a baby girl, were killed and at least 15 injured when an SUV ploughed through a busy pedestrian district in Germany's southwestern city of Trier.

Around 2pm on Tuesday, police in the city near the border with Luxembourg, say a 51-year-old German national raced his SUV at speeds of up to 70km/h for around 1km through a narrow inner-city street.

Eyewitnesses say “people flew through the air” during the attack; police say the driver of the vehicle is a local man with no terrorist links, or record of political extremism.

“The perpetrator was arrested after targeting people indiscriminately with his vehicle,” said Karl-Peter Jochem, a local police spokesman. “We cannot say anything yet about a motive, why he did it.”


Four people were still in life-threatening danger in the hospital and five others suffered serious injuries, while another six had less serious injuries, state interior minister Roger Lewentz said.

Two of the others killed were identified as a 25-year-old woman and a 45-year-old man from Trier; the baby’s mother was among those in hospital. Police said the oldest victim was aged 73.

The suspect, whose name was not released in line with German privacy laws, had no fixed address and had been living in recent days in an SUV that a friend had loaned him, which was used in the attack, said prosecutor Peter Fritzen, who was heading the investigation.

He was being interrogated by police and was to undergo a psychiatric examination, Mr Fritzen said.

“We have no indication that there was any kind of a terrorist, political or religious motive that could have played a role,” he told reporters.

The suspect had also consumed a “not insignificant” quantity of alcohol before the incident and was well above the legal limit, he added.

As police questioned the man on Tuesday afternoon, forensic investigators inspected the trail of destruction – mangled bicycles and cafe furniture – in the shopping precinct near the city’s Roman ruins.

"I just walked through the city centre and it was a horrifying scene . . . it looks like war," said mayor Wolfram Leibe, fighting back tears at a press conference. "There was a running shoe lying there . . . the girl who owned it is dead."

Local man Manfred Krames said he couldn’t believe what was happening outside his window on the main shopping street, on what he said was a normal, quiet afternoon.

“I was having a nap, my fiancé called me to the window saying something had happened,” he told the Bild tabloid. “I thought I was dreaming as I saw one person after another fell over as if they fainted, I thought it was a poison gas attack.”

Local police asked eyewitnesses to share with them – and not with social media – any photographs or video footage of the incident.

Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed her condolences to the families of the victims, saying “what happened in Trier is simply harrowing”.

Tuesday’s attack was not the first of its kind in Germany. Dozens of people were injured in a similar incident in the nearby state of Hesse last February, and again on New Year’s Day 2019 in Germany’s western Ruhr area.

Five people were killed in April 2018 when a driver rammed his camping van into a crowd in a pedestrian area of Münster in western Germany. Additional reporting – AP

Derek Scally

Derek Scally

Derek Scally is an Irish Times journalist based in Berlin