Landlord gets life for gas explosion

Almost 11 years after a devastating gas explosion killed six at a Düsseldorf apartment building, the landlord was sentenced to life in prison on Friday morning.

Landlord gets life for gas explosion
Post-explosion clean up efforts in 1997. Photo: dpa

In one of the longest murder trials in German legal history, the Duisburg county regional court in the German state of North Rhine Westphalia found 48-year-old Heinz N., the former landlord of the building, guilty of six counts of murder. The court also made a point of declaring the gravity of his guilt, barring the possibility of release after serving a minimum of 15 years.

“He wanted to topple the walls of the house and hazard the deaths of the renters,” said the presiding judge Wolfgang Ramacher.

According to the court, the man instructed his friend, a roofer, to turn up the cellar gas main. He blew the house up in the middle of the night on July 24, 1997, killing sleeping residents because he found his rent earnings too low. The roofer is already serving a life sentence for his hand in the crime.

Because of the long length of the trial, the court reduced the sentence by four years. The German Federal Court of Justice overruled two previous verdicts from the Düsseldorf regional court and sent the case to Duisburg for a retrial.

Heinz N. spoke for himself for the first time during this trial and asserted that he only wanted to scare the “recalcitrant” residents into believing the building was in desperate need of renovation.

In a bizarre turn of events, the convicted murderer will go free until the conviction takes effect. The Federal Constitutional Court arranged for his release after eight years of detention and four years of amnesty because his lengthy detention while awaiting trial was due to the fault of justice system failures.

“I don’t understand why he isn’t being hauled off to jail immediately,” said one of the explosion’s survivors, who was severely injured, in addition losing her daughter in the incident.


Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

The German government says it is in talks over further compensation for victims of the attack on the Munich Olympics, as the 50th anniversary of the atrocity approaches.

Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

Ahead of the commemoration in September, relatives of the Israelis killed have indicated they are unhappy with what Germany is offering.

“Conversations based on trust are taking place with representatives of the victims’ families,” a German interior ministry spokesman told AFP when asked about the negotiations.

He did not specify who would benefit or how much money had been earmarked, saying only that any package would “again” be financed by the federal government, the state of Bavaria and the city of Munich.

On September 5th, 1972, eight gunmen broke into the Israeli team’s flat at the Olympic village, shooting dead two and taking nine Israelis hostage, threatening to kill them unless 232 Palestinian prisoners were released.

West German police responded with a bungled rescue operation in which all nine hostages were killed, along with five of the eight hostage-takers and a police officer.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists  held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Horst Ossingert

The spokeswoman for the victims’ families, Ankie Spitzer, told the German media group RND that the amount currently on the table was “insulting” and threatened a boycott of this year’s commemorations.

She said Berlin was offering a total of €10 million including around €4.5 million already provided in compensation between 1972 and 2002 — an amount she said did not correspond to international standards. 

“We are angry and disappointed,” said Spitzer, the widow of fencing coach Andre Spitzer who was killed in the attack. “We never wanted to talk publicly about money but now we are forced to.”

RND reported that the German and Israeli governments would like to see an accord by August 15th.

The interior ministry spokesman said that beyond compensation, Germany intended to use the anniversary for fresh “historical appraisal, remembrance and recognition”.

He said this would include the formation of a commission of German and Israeli historians to “comprehensively” establish what happened “from the perspective of the year 2022”.

This would lead to “an offer of further acts of acknowledgement of the relatives of the victims of the attack” and the “grave consequences” they suffered.