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Emergency services on the balcony of the house in Ratingen on May 11, 2023: "Particularly callous, pitiless attitude"


Roberto Pfeil / AFP

In the trial of a devastating attack on emergency services in a high-rise building in Ratingen, the public prosecutor's office has demanded a life sentence.

The accused 57-year-old had triggered an explosion and wanted to murder nine rescue workers, said the prosecution representative in her plea at the Düsseldorf district court. In doing so, he proceeded with a "particularly callous, pitiless attitude". The fact that after months of fighting by the doctors, all the victims survived the attack, badly scarred, was pure luck.

"For the victims, nothing has been the same since that day," said a lawyer for the injured rescue workers. Fear of death, insomnia and painful scars would probably accompany many of those affected for the rest of their lives. Most of them would probably never be able to return to their jobs in the police and fire departments.

Therefore, the disappointment was great that the defendant had remained silent in court about his motives and motives. As a result, the crime remains even more incomprehensible to the victims.

Supposedly routine use

The operation on May 11 had begun as a supposed routine. Police and rescue workers entered the apartment where the man lived with his mother because they suspected a person in need of help there. But then the 57-year-old German appeared, poured several liters of gasoline on the emergency services and immediately set it on fire.

According to the investigation, a huge fireball developed, which ignited nine people and injured some of them life-threateningly. Several victims were in a coma for weeks. Bodycams of the emergency services had recorded the whole event.

In the minutes after the attack, around 650 emergency services were massed around the high-rise building in Ratingen. Eventually, special forces overpowered the 57-year-old. In his apartment, they found the already badly decomposed body of his deceased mother.

"Devil's vaccine"

According to a psychiatric expert, the defendant led a simple, inconspicuous life until a few years ago. Then came the Corona pandemic, which played a major role in the 57-year-old's mind until the end. In handwritten notes, he referred to the Covid vaccination as the "devil's vaccine" and state institutions such as the employment office as "tools of the devil".

The defendant had moved in with his mother and had led a life that was strongly geared towards those who were increasingly in need of care, the expert continued. The two had lived in seclusion in the shared apartment on the 10th floor of the Ratingen high-rise.

"Drugs are poisoned"

As of 2022, the old woman's health has deteriorated. The 57-year-old wrote angry letters to doctors and health insurance companies, blaming them for his mother's poor condition, formulating conspiracy theories and attacking state institutions.

When his mother finally died, he lived with the body in the apartment for weeks, no longer showing up, no longer emptying the mailbox. Neighbors and the property management were concerned and alerted the emergency services. This is how the momentous operation came about a good six months ago.

No evidence of diminished culpability

Nevertheless, the expert saw no evidence of a psychiatric illness that could have impaired the man's culpability in the crime. He assumes that the 57-year-old acted in full consciousness when attacking the emergency services.

"The emergency services had come to help - and were attacked out of nowhere. In a matter of seconds, he changed the lives of the victims forever," the prosecutor stressed. She also requested that a particular gravity of the guilt be determined. This would make early release from prison after 15 years legally possible, but virtually impossible in practice.

The trial will continue on Wednesday with the defense's plea. It may also be possible to pronounce a verdict on that day.