Suspect accused of pushing boy under German train was on the run from Swiss police

An Eritrean man accused of killing an eight-year-old boy by pushing him under a train in Germany had been on the run from Swiss police after a violent incident last week, it has emerged.

Suspect accused of pushing boy under German train was on the run from Swiss police
The suspect in custody in Frankfurt. Photo: DPA

The married father-of-three, identified by German media as 40-year-old Habte A., had also undergone psychiatric treatment this year, said police in the Swiss canton of Zurich where he lived.

Last Thursday, he had flown into a rage and threatened a neighbour with a knife and locked her up, and also trapped his wife and their children, aged one, three and four, in their flat before running away.

The outbreak of violence was surprising according to his wife and neighbour, Swiss police said. “They unanimously stated that they had never seen him like this before,” a police spokesman said.

Spiegel Online reported that the asylum seeker who had lived in Switzerland for 13 years had worked in tram maintenance for the Zurich Transport Authority since early last year.

READ ALSO: Man accused of pushing boy under train is father of three

The suspect told prosecutors that he had taken the train from Basel to Frankfurt a few days ago.
Federal Police President Dieter Romann said that the man had entered Switzerland without permission in 2006 and had applied for asylum there, which he was granted two years later. “Since then, he has held a category C settlement permit in Switzerland, which means that he is well integrated,” said Romann.
The suspect had been working and was “exemplary from the point of view of the foreigners and asylum authorities in Switzerland”.
German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer noted he had been held up as an example of successful integration in a publication of the social work organization SAH.
According to investigators, there are no indications of radicalization.

German prosecutors laid murder and attempted murder charges against the man over the attack Monday that left eye-witnesses in need of trauma counselling and shocked the nation.

He allegedly also pushed the boy's mother onto the tracks at Frankfurt's main station, and tried but failed to do the same to a 78-year-old woman.

“While the mother could roll off after the fall and move herself onto a narrow footpath between two tracks, her child was caught by the arriving train and died, on the spot, of his injuries,” said a statement by Frankfurt 

Psychiatric examination 

The man ran down a platform and across tracks but was followed by passers-by including an off-duty officer, and overpowered by police two blocks from the station.

The suspect did not previously know the victims and showed no signs of alcohol or drug use, prosecutors spokeswoman Nadja Niesen said.

“The crime suggests a psychiatric disorder,” she told a press conference, adding that an examination would ascertain the level of his criminal culpability.

SEE ALSO: 'More police needed': Killing of child puts focus on security in Germany's train stations

The horrific crime has dominated newspaper front-pages and TV news bulletins, and led politicians to call for heightened security, more camera surveillance and tighter border controls.

Citizens have laid flower wreaths, candles and stuffed toys at the site of the killing and a memorial service was scheduled at the station in the evening.

Photo: DPA

Interior Minister Seehofer had cut short his summer holiday to meet the heads of major security agencies in Berlin.

Seehofer emphasized that although the general crime rate in Germany is decreasing, people could be feeling “very tense” about security.

There will now be top-level discussions between agencies about how security at railway stations in Germany can be improved. Seehofer demanded a greater police presence at railway stations, echoing calls from other politicians in Germany. 

Motive still unknown

Prosecutors spokeswoman Niesen said the man in custody had not yet spoken about a motive.

If formally charged, tried and then found guilty, he would face a likely term of life in prison, she said.

In a similar case earlier this month, a 34-year-old mother died after being pushed in front of a train, allegedly by a Serbian man.

Germany's far-right has seized on both killings to once more criticise what it regards as the flawed immigration policies of Chancellor Angela Merkel's government.

SEE ALSO: Woman dies after being pushed in front of oncoming train near Duisburg

With reporting from Frank Zeller

Member comments

  1. Article states: Germany’s far-right has seized on both killings to once more criticise what it regards as the flawed immigration policies of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government.
    I am not a supporter of the far right but in reality the far-right are simply stating the sad fact that these terrible murders have happened and would not have happened had the immigration policies of Chancellor Angela Merkels government not been passed. It can not be brushed under the carpet this is not theatrics, people/children have been killed (people/children that would be alive today had these immigration policies not been passed). To pretend this is not the case is an insult to ALL the victims and to support the perpetrators of such acts or try to have empathy for them (instead of focusing on the victims and preventing more deaths) is an insult to human decency.

  2. Because until then, there was ZERO murders in Germany right? Like Germans didnt know what murder was, until immigrants came over and showed it to Germans? You say you arent a supporter of the far right? Yea..keep saying that over and over again until you believe your own bullshit.

  3. Wow, no need for the swearing. I am focusing on this story and the murder of a young child and the attempted murder of his mother and another. Of course murder existed before, but the comments here are based on this incident and this story. Sorry If I upset you.

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German court ruling paves way for trial of Maddie suspect

A German court was told Tuesday it has jurisdiction to try the prime suspect in the disappearance of British toddler Madeleine McCann for unrelated sexual offences, paving the way for a trial.

German court ruling paves way for trial of Maddie suspect

The regional court in Brunswick, north Germany, had said in April that it  could not hear the case against Christian B. because the suspect’s last known  address was in a different part of the country.

But a higher court in Brunswick ruled on Tuesday that there was insufficient evidence of another place of residence, after prosecutors appealed the decision.

“The regional court of Brunswick has local jurisdiction for the charges and  must decide on the opening of proceedings,” the higher regional court said in a statement.

Christian B. is already behind bars, serving a seven-year sentence for  raping a 72-year-old US tourist in the Portuguese resort of Praia da Luz in 2005.

READ ALSO: 15 years on, Portugal eyes German suspect in missing Maddie case

He is also the main suspect in the disappearance of the then three-year-old “Maddie” McCann from a holiday apartment at Praia da Luz in 2007.

Brunswick prosecutors have said they believe Christian B. murdered the girl, but he has yet to face any charges in the McCann case.

As part of their investigations, Brunswick prosecutors last year charged  him with three counts of rape and two sexual offences against children in Portugal — unrelated to McCann — between 2000 and 2017.

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Judges in Brunswick must now decide whether to launch a trial over these  charges.

Brunswick prosecutors welcomed Tuesday’s ruling on the jurisdiction issue, with spokesman Christian Wolters saying it had also “brought clarity for the  Maddie case”.

The investigations into the McCann case were still ongoing, Wolters told AFP.

Reservoir searched

McCann went missing a few days before her fourth birthday, as her parents dined with friends at a tapas bar near the apartment.

Despite a huge international manhunt and global media attention, no trace of her has been found and no one has been charged over her disappearance.

In 2020, German prosecutors revealed they were investigating Christian B. in connection with the case, saying they had “concrete evidence” he killed Maddie.

In May, investigators carried out a three-day search at a reservoir in southern Portugal, at the request of German prosecutors, in the hopes of finding clues into McCann’s disappearance.

Brunswick prosecutors afterwards said “a number of objects” were secured during the search, but that it was too soon to determine any link with the McCann case.

“New investigation results, including those related to the search operation in Portugal, are not yet available,” Wolters told AFP on Tuesday.