Asian bloodbath: lab data key to trial
Asian bloodbath: lab data key to trial
26 August 2007
Stade, Germany (dpa) - Seven Asians were slaughtered at a restaurant in Germany earlier this year to cover the trail of thieves making off with a few cell phones and laptops and a few thousand euros in cash, prosecutors say.
That will be the central claim at the trial opening Monday of five ethnic Vietnamese in the German town of Stade.
The attack late on February 4 at a Chinese restaurant in the nearby town of Sittensen was one of the biggest murder incidents in the peaceful north of Germany since the Second World War.
Five staff from Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and Hong Kong were tied up and shot dead along with popular local restaurant owner Danny Wing Hong Fan, 32, and his 28-year-old wife, both British citizens. Only their baby survived.
Three defendants have been indicted for murder and the other two for serious robbery or inciting robbery.
"It looks as if it will be a lengthy trial," said court spokesman Joern Kaufert. The defendants have not admitted the charges and laboratory evidence from police scientists will be needed to secure a conviction.
The first police on the scene around midnight found the owners and four staff tied up and shot dead in different rooms of the Lin Yue restaurant and another man still alive but bleeding badly from his wounds. He died soon after in hospital.
"We evacuated him and left everything else untouched so that we wouldn't disturb any forensic evidence," recalls Torsten Oestmann, the police officer who led the call-out in the town 40 kilometres southwest of Hamburg.
The media and locals did not wait for evidence.
Some guessed that Chinese mobsters were giving a warning to restaurateurs to pay up to protection rackets. But criminologists were swift to dispel the myths in the German media about Asian-style crime.
"The so-called Chinese triads don't work that way at all," explained Klaus von Lampe, a Berlin professor.
There was a fresh frenzy of speculation when senior detective Petra Guderian announced just two days after the killing, "Two Vietnamese were arrested the following afternoon during a routine check and are now suspects."
That led many to wonder if there had been some kind of settling of accounts by the ethnic Vietnamese gangs that smuggle eastern European cigarettes into Germany and hawk them "tax-free."
After further arrests in May and June, police were convinced that there was no additional covert motive for the robbery and killings. The attackers had simply wanted to get their hands on cash kept at the restaurant and any easy-to-resell digital devices.
The prosecution account of the night of the killings remains incomplete, but the court will be told that the first two men arrested, aged 34 and 31, and a 30-year-old taken into custody in May were the raiders inside the building.
A 40-year-old man detained in June acted as the lookout outside, the court will hear, while a 42-year-old Vietnamese, also detained in June, is accused of planning the attack.
He had been casually employed as a kitchen porter at the restaurant and allegedly sketched a plan of the interior, which was found in the first two suspects' car.
It was pure luck that they were stopped on a country road an hour's drive away the next day and that police on patrol noticed the piece of paper and became suspicious of them.
Prosecutors are to allege that the 30-year-old led the gang, based on partly contradictory statements by two other accused that he pulled the trigger in at least two of the killings.
Those statements to interrogators are only a part of the prosecution case.
"Circumstantial evidence will play a big role in the case," said court spokesman Kaufert.
Police scientists examined about 3,000 items from the restaurant and the suspects' homes, gathering tiny droplets of blood, fibres from clothing and residues expelled from the barrels of the guns and other clues.
They say these will