German police accidentally storm 88-year-old woman's home in hunt for gang
A heavily armed police task force in Lüdenscheid got the wrong address during a planned raid against a criminal gang member, and stormed a pensioner's home instead.
The task force (SEK) wanted to take action against a criminal biker gang member in Lüdenscheid, a city in the Märkischer county district in western Germany, at around 6am last Thursday.
But they arrived at the wrong house number and forced their way into the home of Helga Mackenbach, 88, who was sleeping at the time, reported local newspaper, the Lüdenscheider Nachrichten on Tuesday.
Gerhard Pauli, spokesman for the public prosecutor's office, described the incident as an "unfortunate mistake". Pauli said investigators were now trying to establish how it happened.
It sounds like a scene from a crime thriller: specially trained officers from the Sondereinsatzkommando (SEK) squad rammed down the door of the apartment, while a flash grenade, used to temporarily stun people, went off on the balcony at the back of the building.
The newspaper reported that Mackenbach was woken up suddenly by this noise - and was faced with several heavily armed officers in her home. In an interview she said there was a "terrible noise in the hallway".
When the SEK squad arrived in her bedroom, there was disbelief amongst everyone, Mackenbach said.
She added that the officers "were shocked that I was an old woman".
After the initial shock, the pensioner showed herself to be an exceptionally good host. "I first asked everyone if they wanted coffee," she said. "I put Christmas crockery on the table, then we drank coffee."
According to the chief prosecutor, Mackenbach was "admirably tough" and "relatively calm" during the incident.
Mackenbach said she didn't blame the SEK squad for their unannounced visit.
"It shouldn't happen, but it can," she reportedly said.
Police eventually found the target
Immediately after the failed operation, police had called on a pastor to assist the pensioner.
The SEK officers then moved two houses away and arrested the target for whom they had come to the area to find.
The suspect, a member of the Hagen chapter of the Freeway Riders, was released after interrogation.
Reason for confusion still unclear
The amount of damage to the three doors of the 88-year-old that were hit in the raid has not yet been determined, but, according to Pauli, the woman "will be fully compensated by us".
Meanwhile, it has not been established how it was possible for the SEK team to arrive at the wrong house number.