German man jailed for life over car attack on carnival

A German man received a life sentence on Thursday for ramming his car through a carnival procession last year, injuring dozens of bystanders including children.

A view of the street in Volkmarsen where Maurice P. drove through crowds during the Rosenmontag parade in 2020.
A view of the street in Volkmarsen where Maurice P. drove through crowds during the Rosenmontag parade in 2020. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Uwe Zucchi

The regional court in Kassel found Maurice P., 31, guilty of tearing through the traditional Shrove Monday (Rosenmontag) parade in the central town of Volkmarsen in February 2020 without braking.

He was convicted of 89 counts of attempted murder and 88 counts of grievous bodily harm.

Maurice P. remained silent throughout the trial, leaving his possible motive a mystery.

However a psychological analysis of the defendant based on his court appearances and job centre files found evidence of paranoia and schizophrenia.

Prosecutors told the court at the start of his trial in May it had been Maurice P.’s intention to kill a “large number of people” and he had accelerated so quickly that his tyres screeched. They said the rampage was premeditated.

READ ALSO: Around 30 hurt as car rams carnival parade

Several people were hurtled into the air as the car tore along 42 metres (yards) of the parade at around 50 kilometres (30 miles) per hour. Children as young as three were dragged under the vehicle, they said.

Passers-by eventually managed to stop the rampage by opening the car doors, pulling out Maurice P. and holding him until he was arrested.

He had parked his car in a strategic position the day before the parade, the court found, and had installed a dashcam to film the crime.

He was not under the influence of alcohol, medication or drugs, authorities said at the time.

Germany has been on high alert for car ramming attacks since December 2016, when an Islamic State group sympathiser ploughed a truck through a Christmas market leaving 12 dead.

The country has seen several such attacks since with most carried out by people who were found to have psychological issues.

In December 2020, a German man ploughed his car through a pedestrian shopping street in the southwestern city of Trier, killing five people including a baby.

In January 2019, a German man injured eight people when he drove into crowds on New Year’s Eve in the western cities of Bottrop and Essen. He was
later taken into psychiatric care.

In April 2018, a German man crashed his van into people seated outside a restaurant in the city of Münster, killing five before shooting himself dead. Investigators later said he had mental health problems.

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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.