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CRIME

Top journalist ‘murders former boss’ – in a book

A top German journalist has murdered and chopped up his disliked former boss – in the pages of a novel published under a fake name, a newspaper has claimed.

Top journalist 'murders former boss' - in a book
German publisher Frank Schirrmacher, not dead. Photo: DPA

The new Swedish crime thriller “The Storm” by Per Johansson seems to have thrown up at least as many intrigues, malicious plots, and mysteries as it contains.

One of them is that Johansson apparently does not exist at all, even though the book’s dust jacket carries an author photo and biography which says he lives in Berlin and runs a web design company.

Nor can anyone find any trace of the novel’s supposed translator Alexandra Grafenstein, or indeed of the original Swedish book “Stormen” which has not (yet) been published in its home country.

The book centres around the brutal murder and dismemberment of an evil German media mogul, in a fashionably bleak Scandinavian setting.

Now Die Welt newspaper has collected a number of similarities between the fictional mogul and Frank Schirrmacher, author, journalist, and powerful co-publisher of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper.

The character in “The Storm” is described as “the head of a newspaper read in the whole of Germany,” and a “journalistic genius” who had published “world-encompassing fantasies about the power of the internet, the future of robots and the dominance of gene technology.”

Schirrmacher has published a number of much-discussed books about the future of society, notably “The Methuselah Conspiracy” in 2004.

On top of this, Die Welt‘s report has found a number of clues that the author Johansson is in fact Thomas Steinfeld, culture editor of the FAZ’s rival Süddeutsche Zeitung – and former employee of Schirrmacher.

Steinfeld owns a home in Sweden and is an authority on Swedish crime thrillers – in 2002 he published a book on the settings of Henning Mankell’s Wallander series in Scania, the Swedish province where “The Storm” is also set. Steinfeld also happens to be a huge Bob Dylan fan, just like Ronny, the reporter-hero of “The Storm.”

Perhaps most intriguing, Steinfeld was literary editor at the FAZ in the 1990s and left along with a host of other culture editors in 2001 – out of frustration with Schirrmacher’s iron rule, Die Welt said.

Neither Schirrmacher or Steinfeld have said anything publicly about the book, and “Per Johansson” has not granted any interviews, though the publisher S. Fischer admitted under pressure that he was a pseudonym for an “author-duo.”

The Local/bk

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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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