What we know about Hanau shooter Tobias R

A man identified only as 43-year-old Tobias R. is believed to have killed nine strangers in shootings at a shisha bar and a cafe in the German city Hanau late Wednesday, before killing his mother and finally himself.

What we know about Hanau shooter Tobias R
Flowers are laid in Hanau near police tape. Photo: DPA

Based on a racist “manifesto” published online, the prime suspect in the shootings has been described by King's College London counter-terror expert Peter Neumann as an “incel” with far-right leanings and “what seems like a significant mental health issue”.

Here is what we know about the suspect and his motivations so far:

Who was Tobias R.?

German authorities and media typically do not report criminal suspects' full names until they appear in court, hence the shooter has been identified only as Tobias R.

Given that he killed himself, the question of when he will be openly identified remains to be seen

On his personal website, R. said he was born in 1977 in Hanau, a city of 100,000 people in central Germany.

READ ALSO: After Hanau: How can Germany deal with extreme right-wing terror?

After growing up and going to school there, he trained to become a bank employee before earning a degree in business from the university of Bayreuth in 2007.

The apartment where R. and his mother were found dead by police is in a working-class district of Hanau, not far from the second of the two bars targeted in Wednesday night's shootings.

In a video R. uploaded to YouTube, he spoke into the camera from a sparsely-decorated room, a rumpled bed and shelves filled with ringbinders behind him.

R. had a license to own weapons as a hobby marksman.


A 24-page “manifesto” seen by AFP documents R.'s belief from an early age that he was under surveillance by an unidentified “secret service”, including simple computer illustrations depicting incidents from his life.

The author claims that real-life events ranging from the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan to former German national coach Jürgen Klinsmann's football management career, as well as plots of Hollywood movies, such as “Starship Troopers” and “Look Who's Talking”, and TV series were based on his ideas.

“None of this can be a coincidence,” he claims.

R. writes that he would often speak out loud while alone in attempts to influence world events via his invisible observers.

He also complained three times to the police about his suspicions that he
was being watched, to no effect.


Much of R.'s creed is concerned with races and nations he believes “must be completely destroyed”, listing by name mostly Muslim-majority countries in North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia, as well as Israel.

He believes that Germans are superior but includes citizens with migrant backgrounds in his genocidal schemes, dreaming of “halving” the country's population.

READ ALSO: 'A new strategy': How Germany plans to fight far-right extremism

“If there was a button I could press to make this happen I would press it immediately,” he claims.

Meanwhile he approves of US President Donald Trump and urges “the West” to prevent China's rise to superpower status.

The document “shows a very deeply racist attitude,” chief federal prosecutor Peter Frank told reporters in a press conference.


R. writes that “for my whole life I haven't had a wife or girlfriend, for the last 18 years exclusively because… I know I'm being surveilled”.

He does not use the word “incel” — a contraction of “involuntary celibate” used as a label and rallying cry by some people online.

Belief among men in such communities that they have been denied intimate relationships with women against their will has prompted some to turn to violence.

In 2018, a man mowed down 10 people with a van in downtown Toronto, after posting on Facebook that “the incel rebellion has begun”.

Esoterica and conspiracy theories

A section on R.'s website listing links to other webpages and videos he found interesting an important highlights an apparent obsession with conspiracy theories, esoterica and the occult.

Topics he appears to have followed include missing people, supposed experiments with alien remains and technology by the US government, illegal CIA mind-control experiments in the 1950s and 60s known as “MK Ultra” and supposed psychic abilities.

In a video he himself posted to YouTube, R. addressed “all Americans” in English, making outlandish claims about evil rituals and child abuse on secret military bases and urging people to distrust “mainstream” media.

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Germany marks a year since deadly racist shooting in Hanau

Germany on Friday marks a year since nine people were killed in a racist shooting in the city of Hanau, an assault that has fuelled fears of far-right terror in the country.

Germany marks a year since deadly racist shooting in Hanau
Martin Hikel, mayor of Berlin-Neukölln, set out candles for victims of the attacks on Thursday evening in front of the district's Rathaus. Photo: DPA

A year after nine people were killed in a racist shooting in the German city of Hanau, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier
on Friday urged all Germans to unite against far-right extremism.

“Has the sadness gone? Has the pain subsided, the anger gone? Have all questions been answered? No. Absolutely not,” Steinmeier told around 50 people gathered at an event in Hanau's Congress Park, scaled down due to Covid-19 restrictions.

“But as federal president I ask you: Let us not allow this evil act to divide us,” he said.

The deadly shooting at a shisha bar and a cafe on February 19th, 2020 shocked Germany and fuelled fears over far-right terror.


But 12 months after the deadly shootings at a shisha bar and a cafe, victims' relatives say too little has been done to shed light on the attack and ensure that such atrocities will not be repeated.

Gunman Tobias Rathjen, 43, completed his killing spree on February 19, 2020 by turning the gun on his mother and himself, leaving behind a 24-page “manifesto” of right-wing extremist views and conspiracy theories.

READ ALSO: What is Germany doing to combat the far-right after Hanau attacks?

The investigation into what happened is still ongoing, with many questions unanswered and little known about the attacker.

Edgar Franke, the government commissioner for the victims of terrorism, pleaded this week for closure for the victims' friends and families.

“There can be no public criminal trial against a dead attacker in which the victims can ask questions. This makes it all the more important to fully clarify the background,” he tweeted.

Controlling father

Rathjen lived with his parents in Hanau. He was a sports shooter and legally owned several weapons, but was not known to police.

In November 2019, however, he had filed a criminal complaint about a “secret service organisation” which he accused of “tapping into people's brains” in order to “control world events”.

In 2002, he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, which apparently remained untreated.

Relatives of the victims have lately focused their attentions on Rathjen's father, who they believe was partly responsible for the crime.

They have filed a 16-page criminal complaint against the 73-year-old for being an accessory to murder, according to a report in the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper.

They believe he had a controlling relationship with his son, knew about plans for the attack and encouraged it.

The families have also criticised the police response on the night of the attack, complaining the emergency number was busy and they could not get through.

They also believe the emergency exit of the bar at the second crime scene had been locked on police orders.

So far, a total of 42 family members of the victims have received about €1.2 million in compensation from the federal government, with more potentially in the pipeline, according to the Ministry of Justice.

Flowers being laid in Hanau for victims of the attacks on February 20th, 2020. Photo: DPA

'Hanau is everywhere'

Organisations across Germany called for decisive action against racism and right-wing extremism ahead of the anniversary of the attack on Friday.

“For those affected, Hanau is potentially (still) everywhere, all the
time,” Atila Karaborklu, chairman of the TGD society for the Turkish community in Germany, said in a statement.

Right-wing extremism and racism are now taken more seriously at the political level, but are still not a high enough priority in Germany, he said.

READ ALSO: After Hanau: How can Germany deal with extreme far-right terror?

Aiman Mazyek, president of the Central Council of Muslims (ZMD), also called for better protection against racist attacks.

“We need an even clearer awareness in the interior ministries that right-wing extremist attacks, for example on Muslims, are not an abstract danger, but a concrete one,” he told the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung on Friday.

Chancellor Angela Merkel noted the upcoming anniversary in her weekly podcast at the weekend, saying: “Racism is a poison. Hate is a poison.”

Merkel also referenced a cabinet committee set up in response to the Hanau attack to combat right-wing extremism and racism.

In early December, the government adopted a package of 89 measures drawn up by the committee aimed at tightening punishments for right-wing extremists and protecting victims.

The measures include making it a criminal offence to publish “death lists” on which extremists list their enemies, and the introduction of a new criminal offence for anti-Semitic or racist incitement.

By Femke Colbourne