Gunman kills one, then self at German court

8th April 2009, Comments 0 comments

A 60-year-old man shot dead his sister-in-law, 48, during a recess from a hearing in a long-running inheritance dispute.

Landshut -- A gunman killed one person then himself Tuesday in a rampage at a German courthouse, police said, in a country still shaken after a teenage shooter murdered 15 people less than a month ago.

A 60-year-old man shot dead his sister-in-law, 48, during a recess from a hearing in the southern city of Landshut in a long-running inheritance dispute, a police spokesman said.

He then shot and wounded a lawyer involved in the case and another sister-in-law before turning the Smith and Wesson revolver on himself.

"This was a terrible tragedy set off by a family dispute," public prosecutor Christoph Stroetz told reporters.

The incident comes just four weeks after a 17-year-old boy gunned down 15 people in the neighbouring state of Baden-Wuerttemberg before killing himself, in a bloodbath that revived an emotional debate over the right to bear arms.

The courthouse in Landshut, a city of 63,000 people about 60 kilometres (40 miles) northeast of Munich, was quickly evacuated and closed to the public after the shooting began.

The assailant, identified as Franz Josef N., had a permit for his firearm and had belonged to a gun club since the 1970s. His son-in-law said he had left a suicide note.

Seven siblings had been entangled in a row over a family will since the 1990s, authorities said, although the judge hearing the case, Karl Woerle, said there had not been any particularly heated arguments in court Tuesday.

But a shouting match broke out in the corridor outside the courtroom during a recess and Franz Josef N. suddenly pulled out a gun.

His sister-in-law succumbed to her injuries while still in the courthouse while the other two victims were receiving treatment. The shots sparked a panic in the building.

"It sounded as if someone had run amok," said Reinhard Kreisel, who was attending a hearing one floor below the shooting.

People in the courtroom raced to blockade the doors with chairs and then hid from view, he said. Others jumped out of the ground-floor window and sprinted away from the building, where 128 people are employed.

Because the inheritance case was civil and not criminal, the people attending the hearing had not had to undergo security checks, the daily Bild newspaper reported on its website.

Bavarian premier Horst Seehofer said he was stunned by the "incomprehensible act" and pledged his cabinet would examine the largely rural state's gun laws and courthouse security.

In last month's massacre, Tim Kretschmer returned dressed in combat gear to the secondary school in the town of Winnenden that he had left last year with average marks.

He went to several classrooms, picking off his victims mostly with expert shots to the head.

All but one of those killed at the school were female.

The teenage killer, a fan of violent "shoot-em-up" computer games and grisly horror films who was said to be clinically depressed, shot himself when police tried to apprehend him, after killing three bystanders while on the run.

He stole the weapon, a Beretta pistol, from his father's stocked gun cabinet after cracking its security code.

The case gave way to an outpouring of sympathy across the country for the victims and pledges from leading politicians to firm up gun laws.

President Horst Koehler backed families of the victims who appealed in an open letter for stricter weapons laws and a ban on gory video games.

Gun laws were tightened considerably in the wake of a massacre at a school in Erfurt in 2002 that left 17 dead including the shooter.

Rolling news channel NTV said Tuesday there are 10 million legal weapons in Germany.

Ralf Isermann/AFP/Expatica

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