Michael M. speaks of an accident, of a "terrible, very horrible accident in which four people were killed".

He says: "I am deeply desperate about the immeasurable suffering that my accident has caused." Take a run up before the next hurdle, and then the words almost get stuck in his throat.

Visibly taken with him, he expresses his condolences to the relatives.

Nevertheless, the relatives' lawyers will then say that Michael M.'s admission made them indignant.

Julia Schaaf

Editor in the "Life" section of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung.

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Wednesday before the Berlin Regional Court: A good two years after an off-road vehicle in the middle of downtown Berlin killed four people who were waiting at a traffic light on a mild Friday evening, the driver of the car has to answer for negligent homicide. The accident with the 400 hp Porsche Macan Turbo shook the whole country and sparked a discussion about the benefits and risks of SUVs in large cities.

According to the indictment, Michael M. was on Invalidenstrasse in the Mitte district on September 6, 2019 and swerved into the oncoming lane because a queue had formed in front of him at the red light. "As a result of an epileptic seizure, he tensed up and stepped on the gas pedal," reads the prosecutor. Michael M. accelerated, raced about 80 meters straight ahead on the opposite lane and knocked down three bollards and a traffic light mast at the intersection of Ackerstraße. As a result, his car was thrown into the air, where he rolled over several times and at the same time turned on its own axis. Four pedestrians were killed: a young Brit and his Spanish partner, who had just moved to Berlin. A three year old boy and his grandmother. The collision speed on impact,the prosecutor says it was between 102 and 106 kilometers per hour.

"Accident-free for more than 20 years"

Michael M. has never stood before a court in his life.

The man with a full beard, with a white shirt collar protruding from his V-neckline and with his hair cropped so short that the balding top of his skull is less noticeable, describes himself as the epitome of an innocent, successful life: he grew up in the Westphalian town of Herne, Abitur, community service, study of business administration.

Non-smoker, no drugs: "I've always done a lot of sport and rarely drank alcohol."

He has been "happily married" to his wife since 2011. He was on the way to an Italian restaurant that evening with his daughter, born in 2013, and his mother. His second child, a son, was born a few weeks after the accident. M. describes himself as a “calm and level-headed driver”, accident-free for more than 20 years, a point in Flensburg because of a speeding violation. In 2018 he went into business for himself and set up a “new automobile club including all services related to cars and the trade in rare vehicles”.

In fact, however, Michael M. admits that in May 2019, four months before the accident, he suffered a first epileptic seizure that lasted "only a few seconds" while he was sleeping. He then took medication and decided to have a "benign, non-treating" tumor removed from his head that had been diagnosed the year before. The operation in a Swiss clinic took place on August 7th. Thanks to an uncomplicated healing process, reassuring follow-up checks and relieving findings, M says: “It was like a fresh start.” With the operation and the medication, he did everything to rule out another epileptic attack. Otherwise he would never have got into the car with his daughter and mother.Incidentally, after the attack in May, the Charité doctor's letter alone stated that he was not allowed to drive a car for three months. “This was the only time that I received such a clear and written notice during my many visits to the doctor.” His Swiss professor merely advised him verbally not to drive four weeks after the operation.

The public prosecutor's office sees it differently: M. had known that he was not allowed to drive a car on the day of the incident. The files also show a different picture for the attorneys of the accessory prosecution: Not only that his treating neurologist Michael M. from Berlin pointed out after the operation that he was not allowed to drive a vehicle for a year. His wife even said in her testimony to the police that she was worried immediately before the accident that her husband could suffer another attack due to stress.

The lawyer Christina Clemm, who represents the parents of the killed child, considers M. to be an “absolute car fan” who was traveling with an “overpowered vehicle” “against medical advice”.

It would be easier for the bereaved if it really had been “just a big accident”.

However, according to Peer Stolle, legal counsel for the British family, this tragedy could have been avoided.