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Trial of ‘serial Autobahn shooter’ begins

A truck driver accused of a five-year indiscriminate shooting spree on German motorways to teach on the road users a "lesson" went on trial on Monday.

Trial of 'serial Autobahn shooter' begins
DPA

Prosecutors say the man, identified as Michael Harry K., was a "frustrated loner" and claim he fired more than 700 times at trucks and cars, leaving several people injured, until his arrest in June 2013.

The 58-year-old faces five counts of attempted murder, as well as grievous bodily harm and other charges, and could face a lengthy prison term if found guilty by the district court in the Bavarian city of Würzburg.

The charges relate to 171 different incidents.

The accused, who lives in western Germany, had wanted to teach other truck drivers a "lesson" over their road behaviour, local DPA news agency quoted senior prosecutor Boris Raufeisen as saying at the trial's opening.

He claimed that the defendant was aware his missed shots could cause "serious accidents with considerable consequences to the point of death of other road users".

The defence has rejected the attempted murder charge and, through his lawyer, the accused vigorously contested in court that he had considered that people could be hit.

"I reject the accusation of having accepted that people might die," he said in a statement read out by his lawyer.

But he admitted that from around late 2009 he fired a "number I can't recall of shots" at lorries' loads on German motorways.

During the investigation he had said that he didn't want to hurt anyone and only aimed at a truck's load or freight hold.

He also said he had acted after once nearly being pushed off the road by a car transporter. 

Presiding judge Burkhard Poepperl said the accused had referred in previous questioning to a "war on German motorways" and the defendant confirmed that that was his view.

In 2009, the year after the alleged shootings began, a businesswoman in a car was critically injured after being struck in the neck and crashing into the motorway barrier at high speed.

The defendant also apologised in the statement to court to the injured woman and to those whose vehicles had been damaged.

The investigation into the motorway shootings, which began at the latest in 2008, was complicated because the drivers of the vehicles hit often didn't notice until arriving at their destination.

Police eventually made an arrest after setting up a technical surveillance system on stretches of motorway to register licence plates.

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CRIME

German jailed for life in double police murder

A German man was given a life sentence on Wednesday for shooting dead two police officers to escape being caught for illegal game hunting during a routine traffic check.

German jailed for life in double police murder

The regional court in Kaiserslautern found 39-year-old Andreas Schmitt guilty of the killings in January this year, which sent shockwaves across Germany.

His co-defendant, referred to by the court as Florian V., was found guilty of abetting illegal poaching.

The 33-year-old was in the car with Schmitt when the officers discovered dead game in the boot, investigators said.

“We are all to this day horrified that a supposed routine control could turn into a fatal incident,” Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said in a statement after the verdict.

READ ALSO: German prosecutors say poaching led to double police murder

The victims were a 24-year-old woman police officer still in training and her colleague, a 29-year-old man.

The young woman was killed by a single shot to the head, while the man was shot four times, investigators said.

The officers were able to report that they were checking a suspicious vehicle and that shots were being fired before radio contact broke off.

When backup arrived, the woman was already dead and the man fatally injured. The perpetrators had fled the scene.

The crime in the Kusel district of Rhineland-Palatinate state triggered a major manhunt, with police deploying helicopters and sniffer dogs, sealing off roads and warning local residents not to pick up hitchhikers.

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