‘Sprightly’ 103-year-old Berlin woman fends off intruders with cane

A 103-year-old woman in Berlin fought off two thieves with her walking stick on Thursday afternoon.

'Sprightly' 103-year-old Berlin woman fends off intruders with cane
Berlin's State Criminal Police office, who has taken over the investigation. Photo: DPA

Two strangers rang the doorbell to the pensioner’s apartment in Berlin's Gesundbrunnen neighbourhood on Thursday at around 4 p.m, according to Berlin police.

When the elderly woman opened the door, two women forced their way into her apartment. The intruders then ushered the pensioner into the kitchen under the pretense of getting her to sign a document, leaving the front door open for an accomplice to enter.

But the 103-year-old Berliner, whom police described as 'sprightly,' wasn't so easily fooled.

She refused to sign the document, and then, when one of the strangers got too close, the senior citizen defended herself with her walking stick, driving the duo out of her apartment empty-handed.

The women fled along with an unknown male accomplice who had been waiting in the stairwell. The older woman was unhurt.

This is a common trick used by fraudsters to try to distract their victims, often older people, a police spokeswoman told The Local. Sometimes thieves pretend to be getting a signature for a parcel.

They may focus people on something else so that the accomplice can scurry into the apartment to collect valuables, the spokeswoman explained.

Police warned residents they are not obliged to let any strangers into their apartment, and that they should ask anyone claiming to be an official for a badge.

Police also said not to leave large sums of money or valuables lying around one’s apartment.

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German police under fire for using tracing app to find witnesses

German police drew criticism Tuesday for using an app to trace contacts from bars and restaurants in the fight against the pandemic as part of an investigation.

A barcode used for the Luca check-in app to trace possible Covid contacts at a Stuttgart restaurant.
A barcode used for the Luca check-in app to trace possible Covid contacts at a Stuttgart restaurant. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Marijan Murat

The case stemming from November last year began after the fatal fall of a man while leaving a restaurant in the western city of Mainz.

Police seeking possible witnesses made use of data from an app known as Luca, which was designed for patrons to register time spent in restaurants and taverns to track the possible spread of coronavirus.

Luca records the length of time spent at an establishment along with the patron’s full name, address and telephone number – all subject to Germany’s strict data protection laws.

However the police and local prosecutors in the case in Mainz successfully appealed to the municipal health authorities to gain access to information about 21 people who visited the restaurant at the same time as the man who died.

After an outcry, prosecutors apologised to the people involved and the local data protection authority has opened an inquiry into the affair.

“We condemn the abuse of Luca data collected to protect against infections,” said the company that developed the Luca app, culture4life, in a statement.

It added that it had received frequent requests for its data from the authorities which it routinely rejected.

Konstantin von Notz, a senior politician from the Greens, junior partners in the federal coalition, warned that abuse of the app could undermine public trust.

“We must not allow faith in digital apps, which are an important tool in the fight against Covid-19, to disappear,” he told Tuesday’s edition of Handelsblatt business daily.