Date: Thursday, 20 August 2020
The 41-year-old on trial told a special psychiatric-assessment hearing at Frankfurt's regional court — via his lawyers — that he was "infinitely sorry, especially for the family of the eight-year-old boy killed by my actions."
The boy was killed instantly, according to prosecutors. The boy's mother, who was also shoved onto the track bed in front of the arriving Intercity Express (ICE) passenger train, had managed to roll aside and survive.
A witness, a 79-year-old bystander whom the man also attacked and injured, told the court she saw "how he violently shoved the woman and boy onto the track bed."
"Sheer horror" was experienced by bystanders along Platform 7 of Frankfurt's main railway station, the woman testified as Wednesday's hearing opened under tight security.
The victims' family lawyer, Ulrich Warncke, rejected the apology, telling the court: "There is no excuse for what has been done."
Warncke said the family had two demands: Public discussion on how to deal with mentally ill people and to provide treatment before they commit serious crimes. In addition, train platforms across Germany must finally be better secured, he said.
Prior to the attack on July 29, 2019, Swiss police had been searching several days for the man, originally from Eritrea, after he had locked up his wife and three children before he ended up in Frankfurt.
His residency in Canton Zurich was unlimited and he had integrated well — after fleeing war in Eritrea in 2006 — but in early 2019 he began psychiatric treatment, authorities said after his arrest last year.
Frankfurt prosecutors pursuing two charges of manslaughter, attempted manslaughter and violent bodily abuse were told by the presiding judge Wednesday that murder and attempted murder could be assumed, if proven during proceedings.
Prosecutors sought the man's long-term confinement to a psychiatric clinic, warning there was a "high to very high probability" of further violent acts, given diagnosed schizophrenic psychoses and paranoid fear of being pursued.
Since last August, the accused has been held at a forensic clinic in Riedstadt in Hesse state, 40 kilometers (25 miles) southwest of Frankfurt.
Last year's fatal incident prompted German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer to call for enhanced controls on travelers arriving from Switzerland and better safety measures along platforms at Germany's 5,700 rail stations.
At the time, opposition politicians accused him of populism as Germany's far-right once more criticized what it regarded as flawed migration.
Among all German stations, visitor numbers are highest at Hamburg's main rail station, a so-called through-station.
Frankfurt's main station (Hauptbahnhof), a railhead terminus opened in 1888, handles the most international train connections, according to research firm Statistica. Last year, 2.9 billion persons passed through German stations.