Five people including a baby were killed on Tuesday when a drunk man drove a car into a crowded pedestrian area in an apparently deliberate attack in the western German city of Trier.
The driver was identified by police as a 51-year-old German from the Trier area. He was overpowered and arrested at the scene after officers rammed his car off the road to prevent further deaths.
The driver has not been officially named but several German newspapers identified him as Bernd Walter W from the village of Kordel, near Trier.
The arrested man has a history that suggests mental illness, a spokesman for prosecutors said. He was drunk at the time of the incident, and had a blood alcohol level of 1.4 per thousand. He was homeless and living in his car. There is no evidence of a a religious, political or terror motive.
Police last night said four people were critically injured, five seriously injured, six had light injuries and "two dozen" were traumatised.
The five killed in the incident are three women aged 73, 52 and 25, a 45-year-old man and a nine-month-old baby, all of whom were from Trier. The baby's mother is being treated in hospital.
"This is probably the darkest day Trier has faced since the Second World War," Wolfram Leibe, the mayor of Trier, told a second press conference. "We cannot shirk this, we must face it."
Local officials broke down in tears before the cameras as they described what had happened.
“I just walked downtown and it was just awful. It was a scene of horror. There's a trainer lying there. The little girl it belonged to is dead,” Mr Leibe told a press conference, his voice breaking with emotion, before passing the microphone to a police spokesman, unable to go on.
Eyewitnesses described seeing a pram flying through the air after it was hit by the car., confirmed that a baby was among the victims.
A man is believed to have been killed outside a DM drugstore on the corner of Hauptmarkt and Sternstrasse. The Range Rover then continued north. It left the pedestrian zone at the Porta Nigra, an ancient Roman gate that is one of Trier’s most famous landmarks, before turning east into Christophstrasse, where police rammed it off the road around 1km (1,100 yards) from where the incident began.
The driver resisted arrest but was overpowered and taken into custody. He appeared to have targetted pedestrians at random and there was no clue as to his motive, police said. He refused to answer initial questions.
“We’ll have to question him further, which will not be easy,” said Karl-Peter Jochem, a spokesman for the Trier police.
He is believed to have borrowed the Range Rover used in the incident from another local resident.
It is not the first time vehicles have been used as weapons against pedestrians in Germany. Twelve people were killed in an Islamic state attack when a rejected Tunisian asylum-seeker drove a lorry into a Berlin Christmas market in 2016.
Dozens of people were injured when a mentally disturbed German drove his car into a carnival crowd in Volksmarsen in February.
“What happened in Trier is shocking,” a spokesman for Angela Merkel said. “Our thoughts are with the relatives of the victims, with the many injured and with everyone who is currently working to care for those affected.”
Malu Dreyer, the regional prime minister of Rhineland-Palatinate said: “This is a very, very terrible day for my home town, Trier... Worst of all is that people have lost their lives.”
The incident took place in the afternoon, in a pedestrianised area that usually hosts the city’s annual Christmas market. The market was cancelled this year because of the coronavirus, but the streets were full of Christmas shoppers.
Witnesses described a silver-grey Range Rover swerving into the pedestrian zone at high speed and ploughing through people. “It looked like he was doing 100kmh (62mph),” one witness told NTV television.
A woman is believed to have been killed outside a C&A clothes store on Konstantinstrasse where the incident began. The Range Rover then continued north through the historic Hauptmarkt market square.
“I saw a pram fly through the air. I saw it from the window,” a shopkeeper on the square told Trierer Volksfreund, a local newspaper. “People were screaming and running into the shop to take shelter.”