‘Ice cold’ confession: Suspect admits to murders of child and friend

The 19-year-old suspect in a double murder case that chilled Germany this week confessed to both crimes, describing in an emotionless "ice cold" manner the frustration that led to his violence.

'Ice cold' confession: Suspect admits to murders of child and friend
Police in Herne outside the scene of the second murder. Photo: DPA

Police said on Friday that the suspect in the case in Herne, North Rhine-Westphalia had confessed to both the murder of a nine-year-old boy and an acquaintance this week.

Marcel H., 19, was arrested on Thursday after a nationwide, days-long, intensive manhunt following the gruesome discovery of a young boy stabbed to death in a basement on Monday. Images surfaced online, including an apparent selfie of the bloody suspect with the dead boy's body, and led to someone alerting police about the crime.

The suspect turned himself in on Thursday by telling workers at a local eatery to call police. He then gave officers information to lead them to an apartment fire, where a second victim was discovered.

On Friday after a long interrogation session with the suspect, officials detailed what Marcel H. had confessed led to his violence: his frustration about potentially losing internet connection and being rejected by the German army.

“I have little doubt about what he says, but we cannot trust him in all areas,” said the leader of the Bochum homicide unit,  Klaus-Peter Lipphaus.

He told police that initially he had tried to kill himself. The suspect said he had been feeling frustrated because his application to the German army was rejected. He was also upset because his family was moving to another town, and he feared losing his internet connection.

The possibility of “not being able to play video games online” made him contemplate suicide.

But when his suicide attempt failed, Marcel H. decided to kill someone else, and that turned out to be his nine-year-old neighbour, Jaden, who he stabbed more than 50 times.

After killing Jaden, Marcel H. said at first he hid in a forest and then went to stay at the home of the second victim, who he knew through their technical college. The two had been in touch via online chats. Marcel H. and the victim played video games and ate meals together.

But then, Marcel H. decided to kill his host because the 22-year-old friend wanted to go to police about the first murder, stabbing the young man more than 60 times.

After killing the acquaintance, Marcel H. initially did not leave the apartment, staying with the dead body for two days before turning himself in on Thursday. He decided to turn himself in because he said he no other alternative, other than to kill himself.

How the suspect set fire to the apartment in which the second victim was found is not yet clear.

Police said that during the long interrogation session, Marcel H. remained “ice cold” and emotionless.

“We have had to witness a lot of misery, but such a murder case truly gets under your skin,” said Lipphaus.

Police at the moment have ruled out other possible murders by the suspect.

The suspect also told police that he did take photos of the victim, but said he did not post them online. Thus who in fact published the gruesome, bloody selfie of the suspect is not yet clear, and investigators say they are not certain whether they believe the suspect.

The uploading of photos by uninvolved parties made the investigation more difficult, and therefore prosecutors are looking into whether this may be somehow legally relevant.

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EXPLAINED: What you need to know about gun laws in Germany

Germany is known for having some of the world’s strictest gun laws, but shooting incidents continue to cause concern.

EXPLAINED: What you need to know about gun laws in Germany

Is it difficult to get a gun in Germany?

To get a gun in Germany you firstly have to obtain a firearms ownership license (Waffenbesitzkarte) – and you may need a different one for each weapon you buy – or a license to carry (Waffenschein).

Applicants for a license must be at least 18-years-old and undergo what’s called a reliability check. This includes checking for criminal records, whether the person is an alcohol or drug addict, whether they have a mental illness or any other attributes that might make them owning a gun a potential concern for authorities.

They also have to pass a “specialised knowledge test” on guns and people younger than 25 applying for their first license must go through a psychiatric evaluation.

Crucially, applicants must also prove a specific and approved “need“ for the weapon, which is mainly limited to use by hunters, competitive marksmen, collectors and security workers – not for self-defence.

Once you have a license, you’re also limited in the number of and kinds of guns you may own, depending on what kind of license you have: Fully automatic weapons are banned for everyone, while semiautomatic firearms are banned for anything other than hunting or competitive shooting.

A revolver lies on an application for the issuance of a firearms license. Photo: picture alliance / Carsten Rehder/dpa | Carsten Rehder

How many legal guns are there in Germany? 

According to the latest figures from the Federal Ministry of the Interior, as of May 31st, 2022, there were 5.018,963 registered guns in Germany, and 946,546 gun owners entered in the National Weapons Register (NWR).

Where are the most guns in Germany?

Most legal guns are found in rural areas and are used in hunting or shooting sports. Guns are also more widespread in the western States than in the states that make up the former East Germany, where private gun ownership was extremely limited. 

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

What about undocumented guns in Germany?

One problem in Germany is so-called ‘old’ weapons. It’s impossible to estimate how many weapons from the two world wars are still in circulation and such antiques have appeared in a number of high-profile incidents in the last few years.

The pistol hidden in a Vienna airport by Bundeswehr officer Franco A was a Unique pistol from 1917 and the 2007 murder of a police officer in Heilbronn involved a Wehrmacht pistol. 

In 2009, around 200,000 weapons were returned in a gun amnesty, but it is still unclear how many illegal weapons are still out there.

Does Germany have a gun violence problem?

Gun crime is relatively rare in Germany, which has some of the strictest gun laws in Europe and, according to the latest figures from the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), gun-related crimes in Germany are decreasing.

In 2021, there were 9.8 percent fewer crimes committed with a firearm than the previous year, while the number of cases recorded by the police in which a firearm was used to threaten fell by 11.2 percent. Shots were fired in 4,074 of the total number of recorded cases, down 8.5 percent from 2021.

An armored weapons cabinet filled with long guns. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Friso Gentsch

Despite this, there have been several mass shootings within the past two decades, which have had a big impact on public consciousness and on gun control policy. 

Between 2002 and 2009 there were three major incidents of young men carrying out shootings at their former high schools and, in 2020, a racially motivated gunman shot and killed 11 people and injured numerous others in an attack on two shisha bars in Hanau. The perpetrator was allowed to legally possess firearms, although he had previously sent letters with right-wing extremist content to authorities.

Recently there were also shootings at Heidelberg University in southwestern Germany and at a supermarket in Schwalmstadt in Hesse.

Are German gun laws about to change?

The German parliament reacted to the mass shooting incidents in the early 2000s by tightening the gun laws, and, in the wake of the Hanau attack, a new amendment is in the works, which aims to shift focus towards monitoring gun owners with extremist, right-wing views.

READ ALSO: Germany marks a year since deadly racist shooting in Hanau

In December 2021, Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD) announced her intention to further tighten gun laws, as part of a plan to tackle right-wing extremism.

The authorities in charge of the protection of the constitution have been warning for some time that neo-Nazis are deliberately joining shooting clubs to obtain guns and the Federal Ministry of the Interior reports that 1.500 suspected right-wing extremists among legal gun owners.

Dagmar Ellerbrock, a historian and expert on weapons history at the Technical University of Dresden said “it is high time that we try to at least make it more difficult for these political groups to find their way through the shooting associations.”