German police probe family motive after mother's bloodbath
German investigators said Monday they believe a domestic row drove a woman to murder and torch her estranged husband and small son and kill a hospital employee before being shot dead by police.
Investigators suspect that the 41-year-old lawyer shot dead her husband and their five-year-old son when they were visiting her flat in Loerrach in southwest Germany late Sunday.
The mother, who has not been named, had recently separated from her husband, and the son lived most of the time at his father's home, police said.
The woman then set the apartment, which doubled as her law practice, ablaze with the dead bodies inside, police believe. Their charred remains were later recovered from the smoking wreckage, reportedly along with empty petrol cans.
But just as emergency services arrived to put out the fire, the woman ran across the road to the Saint Elizabeth hospital, armed with a handgun, shooting two bystanders on her way and leaving them seriously injured.
Media reports said that panic broke out inside the hospital, with patients screaming for help and seeking refuge in rooms, the cellar and even on the roof.
"Inside the hospital, the woman killed a staff member and then opened fire at police as they arrived. In the subsequent exchange of fire, a police officer was seriously injured and the woman was killed," a police statement said.
Authorities said that the hospital employee, who according to press reports worked in the hospital's gynaecological department, died from gunshot and stab wounds to the head.
They were at a loss to say whether the woman bore any particular grudge against the hospital or any of its employees.
"We have no evidence suggesting any personal link to the victims outside or inside the hospital. Why the woman went into the hospital we cannot say at the present time," prosecutor Dieter Inhofer said on rolling news channel N-TV.
"The investigations are running at full tilt and carried on all night," police said. They put in a place a special hotline for members of the public with relevant information.
Authorities in the sleepy town of 48,000-strong people near the Black Forest and the French and Swiss borders were due to hold a news conference at 4:00 pm (1400 GMT).
The incident came only days after the manslaughter trial opened in nearby Stuttgart last week of the father of Tim Kretschmer, the teenager who in March 2009 shot dead 15 people before killing himself at his old school and nearby.
Joerg Kretschmer, a 51-year-old businessman, is accused of having violated gun laws because his 17-year-old son was able to take his 9mm Beretta pistol from his bedside for the killing spree in the town of Winnenden.
Emergency services in Baden-Wuerttemberg state were well prepared thanks to events in Winnenden, and almost 400 members of the emergency services were in action on Sunday night, including 150 police and 120 from the fire brigade.
Many of those involved in the operation, as well as patients in the hospital, were receiving counselling on Monday.
The fire brigade evacuated seven people from the blazing apartment block and a further 12 from an adjacent building. In total, 17 people received with light injuries.
© 2010 AFP