On Monday morning, a 40-year-old African man pushed a woman and her eight-year-old son waiting at the Frankfurt central station in front of an oncoming train. While the 40-year-old woman was able to get to safety at the very last second, the boy was overrun by the train and died.
Commuters were screaming in agony after seeing the child being killed. Police, fire brigades, 16 ambulances and a helicopter were called to the busy station.
The small boy was pushed onto the tracks of an ICE or InterCity Express, a high-speed train from Dusseldorf to Munich. With speeds up to 300km/h, this is one of the fastest ways to travel in the country.
The alleged perpetrator then fled, but could be overwhelmed by passers-by. The police confirmed that the was a man from Eritrea. Whether he has already listed in the past for crimes, a spokesman for the police could not say. This issue is still being investigated, they said.
The suspect fled the train station in Germany’s financial capital after the crime, but bystanders managed to pursue him so that he could be apprehended near the station, and is currently being questioned. A police spokeswoman told German tabloid Bild: “Passers ran after the fleeing man.” Two streets away, he was overwhelmed, and a police officer arrested him.
Apparently, he tried to push a third person onto the tracks, but the individual was able to fend off the attack. According to police there are clear indications that the man tried to push another person into the track bed.
The authorities assume that the two victims were unrelated to the African.
This month, on July 20 in Voerde, North Rhine-Westphalia, a man from Kosovo pushed a woman off a train. The 34-year-old mother was fatally injured. In that incident, the victim and perpetrator did not know each other either, according to police.
In February this year, three German teenagers were also pushed onto the tracks by immigrant teenagers into an approaching train at a station in Nuremburg. Two of them were run over by the train and killed instantly.
Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer reacted in dismay to the latest horrific deed. The CSU politician announced on Monday afternoon that he would interrupt his vacation to meet with the security authorities.
“In view of several recent serious crimes, I will interrupt my vacation and inform the public tomorrow after a meeting with the chiefs of my security agencies.”
He said he would inform the press of the meetings on Tuesday. “I wish the relatives and friends of the slain boy the necessary strength to deal with this terrible event in this difficult hour. I wish the two injured people a speedy and complete recovery. I strongly condemn this horrific act.”
The Alternative for Germany (AfD) suggested that the murder was directly linked to a mass influx of migrants due to the government’s open-border policy.
“The hideousness of this act can hardly be surpassed,” Alice Weidel said on Twitter, calling on the government to “finally start protecting the citizens of this country instead of [promoting] the limitless welcoming culture”.
Another AfD member also condemned the act and expressed his condolences with the relatives. The deed is unfortunately not an isolated case, said the domestic spokesman for the AfD parliamentary group, Gottfried Curio, and recalled the deadly platform attack of Voerde.
The case shows that there is an urgent need to end “a completely naive, irresponsible, boundless welcoming culture”. The public space is increasingly becoming one that instils anxiety. The station, once a “symbol of a mythical welcoming culture”, is now becoming the “symbol of a society breaking apart”.
The murder has shocked all of Germany after it happened shortly before 10 o’clock in the morning. Investigators now want to reconstruct the crime, but so far the perpetrator has been silent. According to prosecutors, the mother and son come from the Hochtaunuskreis, as reported by the Hessischer Rundfunk. According to some reports, the African arrived in Switzerland in 2006.
The police blocked large parts of the station for several hours. Witnesses were being comforted by pastors – including the children that had been standing on the platform when the terrible deed happened. The station had been “full of children” a witness told the publication.
Four of the busy stations tracks were closed off following the attack, causing many delays.
The crime scene on Track 7 was being combed by the police’s forensic service with 3-D cameras and and laser on Monday. Shocked passengers were seen crying in their hands on the station concourse. One witness told Bild: “The people were deathly pale, some cried.” The mother of the dead boy has apparently suffered a nervous breakdown.
Leftist member of the Bundestag Martin Burkert (SPD) demanded that the railway reinforce “the supervision of platforms” again. “Better supervision would help. In addition, federal police officers are missing,” he said.
But Federal Police unionist Jörg Radek, however, warned: “Such gruesome crimes can not be prevented by more police.”
Radek recommended “the installation of technical barriers that allow access to tracks only when the train is already stationary”. Such devices exist, for example, on certain tracks in London train stations.
A nationwide rebuilding of stations to stop such crimes, was not realistic, said Karl-Peter Naumann (68) from the passenger association “Pro Bahn” since it would be “logistically hardly implement”.
Greens-traffic expert Valerie Wilms blamed the victims for not being careful enough. Passengers should never go too close to a track, she said. “If everybody sticks to the rules, these measures will be enough for the safe use of platforms.”