Church bombs mother `lonely and disturbed'

A lonely mother with psychiatric problems was responsible for the Christmas Eve grenade attack on a Frankfurt church, in which she and two other people were killed and 13 injured.

A day after issuing a reconstructed picture of the attacker, police identified her as a 49-year old from Usingen, a village in the Taunus hills north of Frankfurt. Out of respect for the family, the police would not name her, and there were still no clues about her motives.

All that was known is that she separated from her husband a year ago, leaving her nine-year old daughter in the father's care. She lived alone in her flat, and is thought to have travelled to Frankfurt on Christmas Eve by public transport.

Police believe she hit upon the church in Sindlingen at random, though the family had lived in the same district in the 1980s. None of the people touched by the bombing remembered her.

There is speculation that she might have intended only to kill herself, not realising the effect the blast would have on those near her.

Seventy people were in the church when the grenades detonated. Two sisters seated next to her in the third pew from the back died instantly. A mother and her 12-year old daughter were seriously injured. While the girl's condition improved slightly yesterday, her mother remained on the critical list.

With no suicide note to explain her actions, the authorities can still only speculate about her motives. One theory is that her actions were prompted by a film which was shown on German television last week, in which a person committed suicide in a church during the Christmas service.

Mystery also surrounds the origins of the two grenades that were strapped to her body and detonated simultaneously as the congregation began to sing the first hymn. The grenades were made in Eastern Europe. Though such weapons can be obtained on the black market, particularly in eastern Germany, she would have had to have been quite resourceful to locate them. The police have ruled out a political or terrorist motive for the tragedy.

"Christmas has brought us more questions than answers this year," Bernd Wangerin, the tight-knit community's pastor, told worshippers at a memorial service yesterday. The congregation met at the Arche Community church half a mile away from the damaged church, which remained closed.

"We have injuries among us in spirit and in body," he said in his sermon. "But the injuries among us will bind us together."