Seventh prisoner escapes from Berlin jail within week

While police in the capital were still on the hunt for five inmates who escaped from Berlin's Plötzensee prison on Thursday, another two broke out only four days later on New Year's Day.

Seventh prisoner escapes from Berlin jail within week
A surveillance camera catches legs dangling out of a manipulated ventilation tube. Photo: DPA

But one of the two recent fugitives returned the same evening on Monday.

The New Year's escapees had special terms of detention and were allowed to leave the prison in Berlin's Charlottenburg district for specific amounts of time, according to a prison spokesman.

While the two, aged 44 and 21, could have walked freely out of the main entrance, they instead got out by manipulating a lattice grid on a window in a fellow prisoner's cell.

“It doesn't make any sense,” said speaker for senator of justice Dirk Behrendt (Greens). “It's happening more and more that inmates with special terms do not return or abuse the conditions.”

Their sentences for unpaid fines were from December 2nd until March 31st while another would have served a sentence from December 15th to February 18th.

The previous Thursday, four prisoners aged between 27 and 38 had managed to escape from the same prison by using a heavy hammer and an angle grinder. The four had access to such tools because they worked in an auto repair shop on the prison's campus. They had gone to the boiler room and used the tools to cut through a ventilator and into free space.

Police launched a major search for the four, who have been in prison since last year serving sentences for crimes such as theft, predatory blackmail and serious assault. The search, however, does not yet include the release of photos of the escapees. A judge or prosecutor can order the use of photographs when all other methods have been exhausted.

After the four escaped, the following day, prison authorities realized that a fifth prisoner with special privileges to leave and return to the prison, had not returned on Thursday evening.

Six inmates are still on the run.


One injured in school shooting in Bremerhaven

One person was injured on Thursday when shots were fired in a school in the northern German city of Bremerhaven, police said, adding that they had arrested the suspected gunman.

One injured in school shooting in Bremerhaven

The shooting 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 person was not a pupil, police said, adding that the person been taken to hospital.

“Students are in their classrooms with their teachers. The police have the situation on the ground under control,” the statement added.

Bremerhaven police tweeted 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 the person injured on Thursday was a woman who worked at the school.

They said a school pupil heard shots being fired and called the police. Pupils reportedly barricaded themselves in their classrooms.

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

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

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.