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OFFBEAT

Couple plant bomb at Lidl to earn place in the Spanish sun

A couple in western Germany proved that some people will stop at nothing to earn their little piece of paradise when they tried to extort the discounter using pipe bombs.

Couple plant bomb at Lidl to earn place in the Spanish sun
Photo: Terry King / Flickr

The reason why a pipe bomb had exploded at a branch of mega-cheap supermarket Lidl in western Germany in April had remained a mystery for weeks, reports Der Westen.

But on Tuesday, the district court in Bochum issued arrest warrants for two suspects in connection with the attack.

The charge against the married couple from nearby Gelsenkirchen is that they attempted to extort supermarket chain Lidl for millions of euros and were prepared to kill to get what they wanted.

The pipe bomb was a step in this drastic scheme, Bochum prosecutors allege.

It exploded on April 15th in a bin at a recycling station at the Lidl branch in Herten, North Rhine-Westphalia, lightly injuring a female employee, who was struck by shrapnel.

According to Der Westen, Rüdiger D. (48) and Liana D. (54), dreamed of owning a house in Spain. But they didn't plan on doing it in the time-honoured way – after a life time of mundane work, two years before you kick the bucket.

They had set a deadline of September to leave their dilapidated apartment in Gelsenkirchen and head for pastures new, planning to use the money extorted from Lidl.

Now though, they face a murder charge as prosecutors are convinced they would have stopped at nothing to achieve their dream.

Investigators claim that they detonated the bomb remotely, via a mobile phone, and could not see the bin in which they had thrown it – for all they knew, someone could have been right next to it when the bomb went off.

A not-so-speedy getaway

Three days after the bomb attack, Lidl received an email saying that if they did not hand over €1 million euros within a month, more explosions would follow. Not only that, but if the discounter did not pay up within this time frame the ransom would be doubled to €2 million.

But the method this slapstick Bonny and Clyde chose to receive the ransom made the audacious plan all the more implausible.

They registered three credit cards under false identities. But each of the cards had a daily withdrawal limit of €320 euros on it, meaning it would have taken slightly under three years to withdraw all their loot.

Keeping in mind that Lidl has made its name by being as cheap as is conceivably possible, they also didn’t demand the whole sum upfront. The supermarket was to pay €3,000 into each of the three accounts every month.

For the discount chain, this was a price they were prepared to pay to catch their blackmailers.

But, while they paid in the initial ransom, state police started investigating who the criminals behind the plot could be.

It didn’t take long before the trail was warm and undercover cops started filming the pair on their daily trips to the bank.

An array of different disguises, including wigs and face masks, was unable to save them. After the couple had withdrawn €1,200, investigators decided to move in and arrested them.

If a court finds the couple guilty they face a minimum of five years in jail each.

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CRIME

One injured in school shooting in Bremerhaven

A 21-year-old gunman opened fire at a secondary school in northern Germany on Thursday, badly injuring a female member of staff before being arrested, police said.

One injured in school shooting in Bremerhaven

The incident happened at the Lloyd Gymnasium school in the centre of Bremerhaven, a city on Germany’s North Sea coast, on Thursday morning. 

“The armed person has been arrested and is in police custody,” police said in a statement. The injured woman was not a pupil, police said.

They said the suspect had entered the school building and fired at a female member of staff, who was “seriously injured”.

The alarm was quickly raised and police said they detained the suspect at a nearby location soon after and had seized his weapon at the scene.

The injured woman is being treated in hospital.

A video circulating on social media and German news sites appeared to capture the moment the gunman was arrested.

A man dressed in black is seen lying face down on a street corner, with a weapon next to him, before being handcuffed by officers.

But there was no immediate confirmation of reports the alleged weapon was a crossbow.

Bremerhaven police tweeted in the morning that a large deployment was under way in the city centre and asked residents to avoid the Mayor-Martin-Donandt square and surrounding streets, in the vicinity of the Lloyd secondary school.

Local news site Nord24 said a school pupil had heard shots being fired and called the police. Pupils barricaded themselves in their classrooms.

Police launched a large-scale operation and cordoned off the area around the school while they carried out inquiries. 

By mid-afternoon, police said special forces had completed their search and the last people had left the building.

Authorities set up a phone hotline for concerned parents. Many parents had gathered in front of the school after being alerted by their children.

Pupils and staff are receiving psychological counselling.

Local media said only around 200 people were on the school grounds, fewer than normal because of exam times.

In a separate incident on Thursday, police in the eastern city of Leipzig said they had detained a 21-year-old student still at secondary school after being tipped off by Snapchat that he had posted pictures of himself with a gun and made unspecified threats.

The US social media platform alerted German authorities, prompting Leipzig police to take action.

 A police spokesman said that the 21-year-old did not pose a real threat, however, and only possessed an airsoft gun, a replica firearm that uses non-lethal, usually plastic, pellets.

‘Strict gun laws’

School shootings are relatively rare in Germany, a country with some of the strictest gun laws in Europe. But a recent spate has rattled the population.

Last week, investigators in Germany’s city of Essen said they foiled a school bomb assault, as they arrested a 16-year-old who is suspected to have been planning a “Nazi terror attack”.

Police in Essen stormed the teen’s room overnight, taking him into custody and uncovering 16 “pipe bombs”, as well as anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim material.

In January, an 18-year-old student opened fire in a lecture hall at Heidelberg University in southwestern Germany, killing a young woman and
injuring three others before fleeing the scene and turning the weapon on himself.

In 2009, a former pupil killed nine students, three teachers and three passers-by in a school shooting at Winnenden, in the German state of Baden-Württemberg. The gunman then killed himself.

In 2002, a 19-year-old former student, apparently in revenge for having been expelled, shot dead 16 people including 12 teachers and two students at a school in the central German city of Erfurt. He too then killed himself.

The Winnenden and Erfurt massacres were carried out with legal weapons and spurred Germany to tighten gun laws.

The country currently requires anyone under 25 to pass a psychiatric exam before applying for a gun licence.

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