German man in dock for Christmas shopper car ramming

·2-min read

A German man accused of killing five people when he rammed his car into shoppers in the southwestern city of Trier went on trial on Thursday.

The defendant, Bernd Weimann, is said to have been suffering from psychological problems and under the influence of alcohol when he sped down a pedestrian street in the run-up to Christmas last December, killing a baby, her father and three others.

Sitting at the wheel of his SUV, Weimann indiscriminately targeted passers-by with his vehicle, before he stepped out of the car and was arrested.

Weimann, 51, planned the attack with the intention of "killing or injuring as many as possible", public prosecutor Eric Samel said in his opening remarks.

Besides five murder charges, Weimann faces 18 counts of attempted murder and another 14 of grievous bodily harm.

Judges in the city's regional court will determine whether he was wholly or partially responsible for the acts, owing to his known psychiatric issues.

An expert evaluation prepared ahead of the trial determined that the accused suffers from psychosis, and according to police, could only give an approximate and sometimes contradictory account of events.

Investigations by the police at the time ruled out any political, terrorist or religious motive.

In the view of the prosecution, Weimann felt frustrated by his personal circumstances. Before the events of last December, he had no fixed address and was living out of an off-road vehicle.

His perceived mistreatment at the hands of public officials led Weimann to develop a "general hatred of humanity", the prosecution said.

Weimann himself made no comment during the first day of the trial.

- 'Horror scene' -

Among the victims were a nine-week-old baby girl and her father, 45, while the infant's mother and the couple's one-and-a-half-year-old son survived with serious injuries.

A 73-year-old woman, a 52-year-old cyclist and a student, 25, were among the others killed.

"It's a horror scene," a police spokesperson told reporters following the events, in which many of the survivors were left traumatised.

According to information provided by the prosecution, two of the victims remain in care. One is "immobile" while another demonstrates "apathetic behaviour".

The trial is set to continue until at least January, with the next hearing due on September 3.

Germany has seen a number of vehicle rampages in recent years in which the drivers suffered from psychological problems.

The most deadly of these took place in January 2019, when a German injured eight people after he drove into crowds on New Year's Eve in the western cities of Bottrop and Essen. He was later taken into psychiatric care.

The events in Trier also brought back memories of the Islamist attack at a Berlin Christmas market in 2016 that killed 12 people.

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