A German-Armenian man who ploughed his car into a group of school children on an end-of-term trip in Berlin on Wednesday ‘has serious problems’, his ‘shocked’ sister has said as he is quizzed by police today.
Gor H, 29, deliberately rammed his car into the 10th-grade class in front of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church around 10.30am – killing one female 51-year-old teacher, leaving a second seriously hurt, and wounding 13 students aged between 16 and 17, including six now in critical condition.
Franziska Giffey, Berlin’s mayor, said Thursday morning that officers are still questioning Gor to try and ascertain a motive – but said a picture is emerging of a ‘rampage’ carried out by a ‘severely mentally impaired person’.
Armed police who raided Gor’s apartment – located less than a mile from the crime scene – on Wednesday afternoon said they found no explosives or extremist material. A ‘confession note’ reportedly found in the vehicle turned out not to exist, though officers did find literature ‘expressing views on Turkey’ which is being probed.
Gor – who was filmed being arrested while shouting ‘please help’ at passersby – is talking to police, German media reported, but is making ‘confused statements’ that officers are trying to decipher with the help of an interpreter despite the fact that he speaks some German.
Interviewed by newspaper Bild outside the apartment they shared with their mental-health nurse mother, Gor’s ‘shocked’ 31-year-old sister – whose car he used to carry out the attack – said only that ‘he has serious problems.’
Neighbours, who affectionately referred to the overweight Gor as ‘little round man’, told the paper that he always greeted them warmly while describing him as a ‘loving and nice person’.
Gor H, 29, deliberately drove his sister’s car into a 10th grade class on an end-of-term trip to Berlin on Wednesday morning – killing their 51-year-old teacher, seriously wounding a second teacher, and injuring 13 students, six of them critically
Witnesses said Gor accelerated into crowds in front of Berlin’s Keiser Wilhelm Memorial Church – scene of the 2016 Christmas market attack – before driving 600ft further down the road and slamming into a perfume shop (pictured)
Police tasked with interviewing Gor say he is making ‘confused statements’ that they are trying to decipher with the help of an interpreter – despite the fact that he speaks some German
Officers are today continuing to gather evidence at the scene of the crash, and are probing literature ‘expressing views on Turkey’ that were found inside Gor’s vehicle
Forensic investigators are pictured gathering evidence at the scene of Wednesday’s ‘rampage’, which politicians say appears to be the work of a ‘severely mentally impaired’ mind
A police officer works at the scene where a car crashed into a group of people near Breitscheidplatz in Berlin
An officer bags up fragments left behind after Gor slammed his sister’s car into a 10th-grade class in Berlin on Wednesday
A police truck tows away the car used in Wednesday’s attack, which politicians now say was deliberate though exactly what motivated it remains a mystery
The approximate route the driver took is outlined in red, before he crashed into a perfume shop and was tackled by passersby
Almost all of the injured come from a single school in the small town of Bad Arolsen, in northern Hesse state, around 200 miles to the west of Berlin.
The class – 24 students in total – was on a trip to the capital city that had been organised for 10th grade pupils to celebrate the end of term and the end of their exams.
Jürgen van der Horst, local administrator for the Waldeck-Frankenberg district where the college is located, described it as a ‘big school in a small town’ and said almost all of the 16,000 residents knows someone affected.
‘There is great dismay’ in the town, he told Bild late Wednesday.
Aside from the six critically wounded students and seriously injured teacher, there are two other people – not students – in hospital with serious wounds. Dozens of others received ‘minor’ injuries.
Investigations into the attack are being carried out by homicide detectives, rather than state security forces who would be leading the case if terrorism was suspected as a motive, Berlin’s largest newspaper Tagesspiegel said.
It was revealed yesterday that Gor has no record with state security services, though he did have a record with local Berlin police for thefts. It is unclear when those crimes took place or exactly what he stole, though cops say they are ‘unrelated to extremism’.
Berlin’s top security official, Iris Spranger, said the woman killed was a teacher on a trip to the German capital with students from a secondary school in the central German state of Hesse.
Six people sustained life-threatening injuries and another three were seriously injured, fire service spokesman Adrian Wentzel. Police said 14 students from Hesse were among those who sustained injuries of varying severity, but didn’t give a total tally.
American-British actor John Barrowman, who was in a nearby store at the time of the crash, described the scene as ‘carnage.’
Franziska Giffey, Berlin’s mayor, said early Thursday that Gor’s actions appear deliberate but he is ‘severely mentally impaired’ and police are struggling to ascertain a motive
Berlin Mayor Franziska Giffey speaks to reporters at the scene of Wednesday’s attack, as police continue to hunt for clues as to what could have motivated it
Police officers work at the scene after a car drove into a crowd of people in central Berlin, Germany
Police officers cover a dead body after a car crashed into a crowd of people in central Berlin, Germany,
A forensic officer photographs a car which crashed into a group of people on a school trip near Breitscheidplatz in Berlin
Emergency services move a stretcher at the site where a car ploughed into a crowd in Berlin on Wednesday
A first-response helicopter is pictured at the site after a car crashed into a group of people near Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church (pictured rear) in Berlin on Wednesday
The driver was apparently detained by passers-by and then arrested swiftly by a police officer near the scene, Cablitz said. Investigators were working to determine whether the man deliberately drove into the pedestrians or whether it was an accident, possibly caused by a medical emergency.
Police said the driver was a 29-year-old German-Armenian who lived in Berlin.
Spranger said posters were found in the man’s car ‘in which he expressed views about Turkey.’
In a later interview with regional public broadcaster RBB, Spranger said Germany’s domestic intelligence agency had no immediate information on the man and authorities were still checking whether he was known to police.
She said the driver was in a hospital, ‘because we must of course immediately clarify whether he is ill, whether he took drugs and so on.’
‘We can’t rule anything out at the moment … but there is no claim of responsibility,’ Spranger said.
Berlin Mayor Franziska Giffey said she was ‘deeply shocked’ by the incident but cautioned against drawing premature conclusions.
‘Before speculating, I think it’s important at this stage to really let the police and fire service conduct their investigation,’ the mayor said. ‘We want the greatest possible transparency, but we also want reliable information.’
Giffey said the crash brought back ‘terrible memories’ of a truck attack more than five years ago at the nearby Breitscheidplatz square. An Islamic extremist drove into a Christmas market in 2016, resulting in 13 deaths.
In a 2019 incident in central Berlin, an SUV plowed into a group of pedestrians, killing four people. The driver had suffered an epileptic seizure and veered onto the sidewalk.
A memorial service for the people killed or hurt in Wednesday’s crash was held in the evening at the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church on the Breitscheidplatz, next to the scene of the crash.