No Islamist link to Münster van attack, German police say

Twenty people seriously injured and woman (51), man (65) and driver (48) all dead

German police have begun investigating the background of a 48-year-old man after he crashed a van into a crowd outside a busy bar in Münster. Video: CCTV

 

German police have confirmed there was no Islamist link to Saturday’s van attack in the western city of Münster that left two dead and 20 seriously injured.

Just before 3.30pm a 48-year-old German man with a reported history of mental illness crashed a silver VW camper van into a crowd sitting outside a popular bar in Münster’s historic old town.

A 51-year-old woman and 65-year-old man died at the scene. The driver died by suicide. Many of those injured remain in a life-threatening condition.

A subsequent search of the vehicle revealed a gas pistol, fireworks and wires, prompting police to seal off the area until early on Sunday.

Police carried out two controlled explosions at the driver’s driver’s apartment on Saturday evening to gain access. Inside they found dummy AK47 machine guns and further fire works.

They confirmed media reports that the perpetrator was a local man but declined to comment on claims of a criminal record or links to the far-right scene.

“To date there are no clues to hand as to a possible motive,” said a police spokesman. “The investigation is proceeding intensely in all directions.”

Herbert Reul, interior minister for North Rhine-Westphaliasaid there was “no indication that there is any kind of Islamist background”.

Vehicle removed

Locals were allowed to return home at dawn after the vehicle was removed from the scene. A special mass will be held on Sunday evening at the cathedral in Münster, a prosperous university town of 300,000 people.

“We expect a lot of people to pay their respects, the first were already here,” said Susanne Dirkorte, spokeswoman for Münster fire brigade.

On Sunday morning the crash scene - a cobbled square before the Kiepenkerl pub - carried the traces of the first sunny spring afternoon: empty ice cream bowls and half-finished soft drinks, abandoned by patrons fleeing the van.

The Kiepenkerl pub is named after the adjacent statue of a travelling salesman and a popular local landmark. A mood of shock prevailed in Münster that such an attack could happen in what is a peaceful town with a low crime rate.

Flowers lay in front of the statue at the Kiepenkerl pub by the site of a deadly attack with a van in Münster, western Germany. Photograph: Alexander Koerner/Getty Images.
Flowers lay in front of the statue at the Kiepenkerl pub by the site of a deadly attack with a van in Münster, western Germany. Photograph: Alexander Koerner/Getty Images.

Melanie, a 27-year-old student, watched the van turn near her and head towards the Kiepenkerl.

“We just stood and watched it drive into the people, we heard the screams,” she said. “ I don’t even think it was going that fast, many could jump up in time and save themselves.”

Maik Hörste, a local man, told broadcaster WDR it was “like an action film, with people pulling each other away”.

Feelings were still running high on Sunday morning, divided between praise for the rapid police response and fury at the violent act.

“I’m just angry,” said Michael Müller, a local business owner. “It’s cowardly to do something like this.”