UPDATE: Woman in custody over killings at Potsdam disabled centre

An employee at a clinic for disabled people outside Berlin was arrested Thursday on suspicion of killing four people at the centre and wounding a fifth, police said, with the motive still unclear.

UPDATE: Woman in custody over killings at Potsdam disabled centre
Flowers were set out for the victims outside of the clinic in Potsdam on Thursday. Photo: DPA

The slain victims, two women and two men, were stabbed with a knife late Wednesday at the facility in the city of Potsdam, the capital of the eastern state of Brandenburg, the daily Bild reported.

Those killed are believed to be patients at the care clinic, local newspaper Potsdamer Neueste Nachrichten reported.

Police said earlier the dead were subjected to “intense, extreme violence”, but did not give any details around the circumstances of the killings.

A 51-year-old female staff member has been arrested on “strong suspicion” of carrying out the assault, police said, while acknowledging that any motive was still undetermined.

State prosecutors said they were seeking an arrest warrant on charges of manslaughter against the woman.

The exact circumstances and the motive behind the killings remain unclear.

A spokeswoman for the state prosecutors said that the killings did not bear the “characteristics of murder”, and also that the suspect would not be admitted to psychiatric care.

State police were called to the clinic at around 9 pm Wednesday, according to reports, with the victims later discovered in their rooms.

Specialised teams were dispatched overnight to collect evidence from the crime scene.

“It’s terrible news. I am shocked,” Brandenburg state premier Dietmar Woidke said Thursday, according to government spokesman Florian Engels.

“My thoughts go out to the victims and my sympathy to the relatives.”

Speaking on radio station BB Radio, he called it a horrific and terrible act. “It is a difficult day for Brandenburg,” he added.

Brandenburg state police were called to the Oberlin Clinic at around 9 pm local time on Wednesday, according to reports, with the victims later discovered in their rooms.

Police officers in protective suits could be seen taking photos during the night through the windows of the new building.

‘We are stunned’

The clinic, run by the Lutheran Church’s social welfare service, specialises in helping those with physical and mental disabilities, including the blind, deaf and severely autistic patients.

It offers live-in care as well as schools and workshops.

Around 65 people live at the facility, which employs more than 80 people.

Potsdam mayor Mike Schubert called the crime an “incomprehensible act”.

Local residents began leaving bouquets of flowers, cards and lighted candles in honour of the dead at the clinic, as police maintained a large presence outside.

A ceremony in memory of the victims is planned for Thursday evening, said Matthias Fichtmueller, the clinic’s theological director.

“We are stunned,” he said. “When the case has been wrapped up in the criminal justice system, we will still have to live with the wounds.”

Germany has seen a number of high-profile murder cases from care facilities. In the most prominent trial, nurse Niels Högel was sentenced in 2019 to life in prison for murdering 85 patients in his care.

READ ALSO: Missed chances: How Germany’s killer nurse got away with 85 murders

Högel, believed to be Germany’s most prolific serial killer, murdered patients with lethal injections between 2000 and 2005, before he was eventually caught in the act.

And in October, a Polish healthcare worker was sentenced to life in prison in Munich for killing at least three people with insulin.

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German man jailed for killing petrol station worker in mask row

A 50-year-old German man was jailed for life Tuesday for shooting dead a petrol station cashier because he was angry about being told to wear a mask while buying beer.

German man jailed for killing petrol station worker in mask row

The September 2021 murder in the western town of Idar-Oberstein shocked Germany, which saw a vocal anti-mask and anti-vaccine movement emerge in response to the government’s coronavirus restrictions.

The row started when 20-year-old student worker Alex W. asked the man to put on a mask inside the shop, as required in all German stores at the time.

After a brief argument, the man left.

The perpetrator – identified only as Mario N. – returned about an hour and a half later, this time wearing a mask. But as he bought his six-pack of beer to the till, he took off his mask and another argument ensued.

He then pulled out a revolver and shot the cashier in the head point-blank.

On Tuesday, the district court in Bad-Kreuznach convicted Mario N. of murder and unlawful possession of a firearm, and handed him a life sentence.

READ ALSO: Shock in Germany after cashier shot dead in Covid mask row

Under German law, people given a life sentence can usually seek parole after 15 years. His defence team had sought a sentence of manslaughter, rather than murder.

At the start of the trial, prosecutor Nicole Frohn told how Mario N. had felt increasingly angry about the measures imposed to curb the pandemic, seeing them as an infringement on his rights.

“Since he knew he couldn’t reach the politicians responsible, he decided to kill him (Alex W.),” she said.

Mario N. turned himself in to police the day after the shooting.

German has relaxed most of its coronavirus rules, although masks are still required in some settings, such as public transport.