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‘I found it horrible myself’: Berlin U-Bahn kicker admits guilt

The man who was caught on camera kicking a woman down the stairs of a Berlin U-Bahn station admitted his guilt in court on Monday.

‘I found it horrible myself’: Berlin U-Bahn kicker admits guilt
Svetoslav S. in court in Berlin. Photo: DPA

“I admit that I kicked the woman down the stairs,” Svetoslav S. told the Berlin state court.

But he claimed that he could not remember the crime and that he only became aware of it when police made the CCTV footage public.

“I found it horrible myself when I saw it,” he said.

The defendant faces charges of grievous bodily harm over kicking the young woman down the stairs in October 2016, an act caught on CCTV cameras.

The attack caused public outcry across Germany. On the grainy footage of the attack, Svetoslav S. can be seen walking up behind an unsuspecting woman, a bottle of beer in one hand, a cigarette in the other. He then kicks her down the stairs of Hermanstrasse U-Bahn station, before taking a drag on his cigarette and walking off.

The woman broke her arm in the incident, as well as suffering lacerations to the head.

Svetoslav S. was arrested in December, after police released the CCTV footage in an attempt to find further clues about the crime.

The 28-year-old Bulgarian told the court that on the night in question he had drunk large quantities of alcohol, smoked marijuana and consumed cocaine and crystal meth, the Süddeutsche Zeitung reports.

He also recounted how he had fought with his wife on the same evening and had then been wound up by his elder brother, events which had soured his mood.

His wife confirmed his version of events to the court, saying that she had called him before the attack.

“I was jealous and I really annoyed him,” she said.

She also described how the couple had been married since they were 15 years old and had three children together. She said that her husband had been badly injured in a car crash in 2008 and had been aggressive and dependent on recreational drugs ever since.

The victim is set to speak to the court on Thursday.

Svetoslav S. let it be known through his lawyer that he wishes to apologize to her in person.

The charge of grievous bodily harm entails a sentence of anywhere between six months and ten years in jail. 

He faces a further charge of public exhibitionism. Prosecutors allege that he masturbated in front of two women in the middle of the day in the Reinickendorf neighbourhood of Berlin two weeks before the violent assault. He then repeated this crime in front of another witness around 35 minutes later.

WILDFIRES

‘Unprecedented’: How explosions and fires have rocked Berlin’s Grunewald forest

An "unprecedented" fire broke out on Thursday around a German police munitions storage site in a Berlin forest. Here's how events unfolded and the reaction.

'Unprecedented': How explosions and fires have rocked Berlin's Grunewald forest

What happened?

Emergency services were called out after explosions were heard in the ‘Grunewald’ forest in western Berlin in the early hours of Thursday morning. 

It then emerged that a fire had broken out near a police munitions storage site, all on one of the hottest days of the year when temperatures were forecast to reach around 38C in the German capital. 

As explosions continued at the site, sending debris flying into the air, firefighters weren’t initially able to get near the flames to extinguish it. Emergency services set up a 1,000-metre safety zone around the area.

This aerial photo taken by the Berlin Fire Brigade shows the fire in Grunewald.

This aerial photo taken by the Berlin Fire Brigade shows the fire in Grunewald. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/Berliner Feuerwehr

Later on Thursday afternoon, Berlin fire brigade spokesman Thomas Kirstein said the situation was “under control and there was no danger for Berliners” but that the fire was expected to last for some time.

No one has been hurt by the fires. Around 250 emergency workers were deployed to the site.

READ ALSO: Blasts ring out as forest fire rages in Berlin’s Grunewald

How was the fire being tackled?

The German army (Bundeswehr) was called in. They sent a tank aimed at evacuating munitions at the affected storage site as well as remote-controlled de-mining robots, while drones circled the air to assess the emergency.

Water cannons were also deployed around the safety zone to prevent the fire from spreading.

Berlin mayor Franziska Giffey interrupted her holiday to visit the scene, calling the events “unprecedented in the post-war history of Berlin”.

Giffey advised people in Berlin to close their windows but said the danger was minimal as there were no residential buildings within a two-kilometre (1.2-mile) radius and so no need to issue evacuation orders.

Berlin mayor Franziska Giffey speaks at the scene of the forest fire on Thursday

Berlin mayor Franziska Giffey speaks at the scene of the forest fire on Thursday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Wolfgang Kumm

“It would be much more difficult if there were residential buildings nearby,” she said.

What caused the blaze?

That’s still unclear. Police say they are investigating what started the fire exactly. 

The store in question holds munitions uncovered by police, but also unexploded World War II-era ordnance which is regularly dug up during construction works.

Giffey said local authorities would “have to think about how to deal with this munitions site in the future and whether such a place is the right one in Berlin”.

Is Grunewald a popular site?

Very much so. The sprawling forest on the edge of Berlin is home to lots of hiking trails and is even near some popular lakes, such as the Krumme Lanke. It’s also near the Wannsee and Havel river. 

Map shows where the fire broke out in Berlin's Grunewald

Map shows where the fire broke out in Berlin’s Grunewald. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa Grafik | dpa-infografik GmbH

Authorities appealed for the public to avoid the forest, which is regularly visited by both locals and tourists.

Deutsche Bahn said regional and long-distance transport was disrupted due to the blaze.

A part of the Avus motorway between Spanischer Allee and Hüttenweg was also closed in both directions, as well as Kronprinzessinnenweg and Havelchaussee, according to the Berlin traffic centre.

Aren’t forest fires and strong heat causing problems elsewhere?

Yes. Authorities on Thursday said no firefighting choppers were available as they were already in use to calm forest fires in eastern Germany.

However, they also said the 1,000-metre safety zone applied to the air, so there was a limit to how useful it would be to drop water on the fire from above.

The German capital is rarely hit by forest fires, even though its 29,000 hectares of forests make it one of the greenest cities in the world.

Brandenburg, the region surrounding Berlin, as well as parts of eastern Germany have for days been battling forest fires.

Parts of Germany were also recently hit by forest fires during heatwaves this summer. 

Temperatures were expected to climb as high as 40C across parts of Germany on Thursday. However, it is set to cool down on Friday and thunderstorms are set to sweep in from the west.

With reporting by AFP’s David COURBET

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