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CRIME

Pensioner jailed for attempted Jehovah’s Witness massacre

An 83-year-old man who stormed a Jehovah’s Witnesses congregation with a machine gun in the city of Bielefeld was sentenced to 11 years prison on Tuesday for 39 counts of attempted murder.

Pensioner jailed for attempted Jehovah's Witness massacre
Photo: DPA

The man, who the court said blamed the church for his estrangement from his daughter – herself a Jehovah’s Witness – entered the church hall in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia last July armed with a machine gun, knife and samurai sword.

But he was unable to fire the weapon and was eventually overpowered by worshippers before he could inflict any damage.

The court in Halle judged the man guilty of 39 counts of attempted murder – the number of bullets he was carrying – as well as weapons charges.

The man had denied any intent to murder and his lawyer said they would appeal the verdict.

Judge Jutta Albert said in her hour-long judgement that on the evening of July 30 2009, “nightmare became reality” for the 81 worshippers gathered at the Jehovah’s Witnesses church hall in Bielefeld.

The man had stormed the prayer meeting with intention of killing as many people as possible, she said.

The former prison warden, bricklayer and soldier carried three magazines with a total of 39 rounds, as well as a knife and a samurai sword.

Rejecting the claim he had not intended to kill anyone, Judge Albert said the man had been driven by an “animal hatred” because his daughter had turned away from him and joined the religious group.

She added that the pensioner had long planned the crime, keeping contact with the church in order to spy on it. This was proven by a letter he had written to his son expressing his hatred for the church and outlining his plans.

The man had “preyed on the ignorance of the congregation” and planned to “wreak a bloodbath in the church hall,” she said.

The only reason he failed to carry out his murderous plan was that he could not operate the machine gun. Likely he had been too delirious with rage to handle the weapon or had been unable to release the safety catch and pull the trigger because he was wearing thick gloves.

But crucially, the weapons were fully functional, Judge Albert said.

Reading from a criminal profile, she said the man had been above the average fitness and mentally capability for his age. However she also stressed he had a tendency to violence, having once beaten his adult daughter in a cellar while wearing leather gloves.

Lawyer Werner Robbers said after the trial his client still denied he had intended to murder anyone and would appeal the verdict and sentence. The man claimed during the trial he wanted to warn the Jehovah’s Witnesses congregation of the dangers of Islamic extremism.

He also claimed he had stumbled on the weapons by accident in the woods. If he’d wanted a bloodbath he would have succeeded, he said, given his familiarity with weapons.

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CRIME

German man jailed for killing petrol station worker in mask row

A 50-year-old German man was jailed for life Tuesday for shooting dead a petrol station cashier because he was angry about being told to wear a mask while buying beer.

German man jailed for killing petrol station worker in mask row

The September 2021 murder in the western town of Idar-Oberstein shocked Germany, which saw a vocal anti-mask and anti-vaccine movement emerge in response to the government’s coronavirus restrictions.

The row started when 20-year-old student worker Alex W. asked the man to put on a mask inside the shop, as required in all German stores at the time.

After a brief argument, the man left.

The perpetrator – identified only as Mario N. – returned about an hour and a half later, this time wearing a mask. But as he bought his six-pack of beer to the till, he took off his mask and another argument ensued.

He then pulled out a revolver and shot the cashier in the head point-blank.

On Tuesday, the district court in Bad-Kreuznach convicted Mario N. of murder and unlawful possession of a firearm, and handed him a life sentence.

READ ALSO: Shock in Germany after cashier shot dead in Covid mask row

Under German law, people given a life sentence can usually seek parole after 15 years. His defence team had sought a sentence of manslaughter, rather than murder.

At the start of the trial, prosecutor Nicole Frohn told how Mario N. had felt increasingly angry about the measures imposed to curb the pandemic, seeing them as an infringement on his rights.

“Since he knew he couldn’t reach the politicians responsible, he decided to kill him (Alex W.),” she said.

Mario N. turned himself in to police the day after the shooting.

German has relaxed most of its coronavirus rules, although masks are still required in some settings, such as public transport.

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