Suspected Frankfurt attacker was wanted by Swiss police

Flowers and candles near a track at Frankfurt main station on Tuesday Keystone

A resident of canton Zurich suspected of pushing an eight-year-old boy and his mother in front of a train at Frankfurt’s main station, killing the boy, had been receiving psychiatric treatment, police say. They ruled out any terrorist link and radicalisation. 

This content was published on July 30, 2019 - 16:17
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Cantonal police said on Tuesday the man is a 40-year-old Eritrean who had arrived in Switzerland in 2006 and had then received a residence permit in 2011. He is a member of the Christian Orthodox community and until January worked for the Zurich transport network. He was then written off sick with psychiatric problems.

Zurich cantonal police had been looking for him since Thursday, when he locked up his family and a female neighbour, whom he had threatened with a knife, and then fled. 

His family, who had to be freed by the police, said they had never seen him like that. Previously his only brush with the law had been a minor traffic offence. He had no record in Germany either.

Prosecutors in Frankfurt said the man had told investigators he had taken a train from Basel to Frankfurt a few days ago.

The man appears to have entered Germany legally, German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said at a news conference.

German federal police chief Dieter Romann said the man was well integrated in Switzerland and was classified as "exemplary in the view of the asylum authorities".

The German prosecutors said there were no indications that he was under the influence of drugs or alcohol and were still trying to determine his motive. 

Psychiatric assessment 

On Monday morning the mother and then the boy were pushed onto the tracks as a high-speed ICE train was pulling into Frankfurt station, one of Germany’s busiest. The 40-year-old mother managed to escape by getting out of the train’s way, but the boy was run over by the train and suffered fatal injuries. 

The suspect then apparently tried unsuccessfully to push a third victim, a 78-year-old woman, onto the track before fleeing the scene. She suffered a shoulder injury. 

The man, whose name has not been released, was chased by passers-by, including an off-duty police officer, and arrested near the station. 

He will be brought before a judge on Tuesday to determine whether he can be kept in custody pending possible charges of murder and attempted murder, said Nadja Niesen, a spokeswoman for prosecutors in Frankfurt. 

She added – before the Zurich police said the man had been receiving psychiatric treatment – that the nature of the crime raises the possibility of mental illness and a psychiatric assessment would be conducted as part of the investigation. 

Niesen said investigators were looking at all possibilities but that there was no indication of any connection to an incident last week in which an Eritrean man was seriously injured in a drive-by shooting near Frankfurt that authorities believe was racially motivated.

Eritreans in Switzerland 

The Eritrean community in Switzerland said it was shocked by the news. 

“It’s simply terrible that a child died,” said Yonas Gebrehiwet, spokesman for the Eritrean Media Association in Switzerland. He says the community is now worried about reprisals. 

“We’re scared that what happened will be used against us. Something like this is used to spread fear and hatred. Oil will be thrown onto the fire,” he said. 

Switzerland is home to more than 30,000 Eritreans, the largest diaspora outside Eritrea. 



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