Berlin mystery bombings traced
19 November 2003 , BERLIN - A spate of five mystery bombings which have rocked Berlin over the past year and which critically injured a well-known surgeon have been traced to an elderly widower described by friends and neighbours as a man who would never hurt anybody.
19 November 2003
BERLIN - A spate of five mystery bombings which have rocked Berlin over the past year and which critically injured a well-known surgeon have been traced to an elderly widower described by friends and neighbours as a man who would never hurt anybody.
After being baffled by the apparently unrelated bombings for months, investigators in Berlin now are convinced that 76-year-old Horst Drinkmann became the man dubbed in the tabloid press as the "Berlin Bomber".
Though a novice at crime - or perhaps precisely because nobody ever suspected him - Drinkmann might have gotten away with his bombings until one of his explosive devices went off in his hands.
He was tinkering a bomb together in his modest publicly-subsidised apartment recently when it went off, tearing off several fingers and critically injuring him.
Investigators found a veritable bomb-making laboratory in his flat and said it was a wonder he had not inadvertently blown up half the apartment building.
The bombings began a year 6 July 2002, when a homemade explosive device went off in front of a Mercedes car dealership in the Quitzow Strasse. The dealership was the target of another bombing the following November and again in July of this year.
Then on 10 September Dr. Ruben Gesmundo Herzog, a noted cancer specialist, opened the front door of his house to pick up a parcel left on the doorstep. It went off in his hands, destroying one side of his face and costing him his right eye.
Eyewitnesses to the blast told investigators an elderly man with a box-like device in his hand was seen smiling and laughing as he trotted away from the scene and got into a green Mercedes.
The Mercedes became the link. Investigators quickly determined the bomb that critically injured the physician was identical to the three that had targeted the Mercedes car dealership.
The dealer was asked for any records concerning sale of a green Mercedes. Unfortunately, in an embarrassing misunderstanding, the dealer thought he was supposed to look for a particular shade of green, not all shades of green.
Because green is a popular colour for cars in Germany, it never occurred to him that police would want to sift through the hundreds of people who had bought green cars from him. So he looked only for the shade he thought they wanted.
Drinkmann's car was another shade of green. His name was not among those supplied by the car dealer to police. So he had more time to keep making bombs.
He was tinkering with his last one when it went off in his lap, ending his bomb-making career and sending him to hospital, where he remains in critical but stable condition.
Investigators are now piecing together what happened.
Drinkmann's wife died of cancer in 1999, and his sister-in-law succumbed to cancer a few months later. Both had been patients of Dr. Herzog.
And Drinkmann had in fact bought his green Mercedes from the dealer in the Quitzow Strasse just before tragedy struck his family.
"He never complained about the car. He never threatened or even confronted Dr. Herzog about those deaths," a police spokesman said.
Something inside him snapped and he just started building bombs, based on information he gleaned from the Internet and gunpowder from fireworks together with a remote-controlled detonator.
"We can put the pieces of the puzzle together now in retrospect," the police spokesman said. "But nobody will ever fathom what went on in his mind."
Subject: German news