Church suicide ended tragic life

The secrets of the woman who blew herself up on Christmas Eve during a church service in Frankfurt, Germany, were pieced together yesterday by the police, shedding light on the unbearable pain that led to the tragedy. It now seems certain that she lit herself as a human torch in memory of her son who had leapt in front of a train at the age of 18.

The son's suicide in November 1989, at a spot near the church where his mother paid the ultimate tribute, had unhinged her mind. She received psychiatric help from time to time, but never got over his death. Last year came the final blow: the emotional strain of his death destroyed her marriage, and she was declared unfit to care for the couple's other child, a nine-year-old girl.

A search of her flat yielded no clues, only testimonies from neighbours that she was reclusive, weighed down by sorrow. Out of respect for the family, police refused to name her, though one newspaper yesterday published her first name and the initial of her surname.

She must have been planning her exit for a long time. The means of self- destruction, two Yugoslav-made hand grenades containing 100 grammes of TNT each, could not have been bought, in the words of the police, "in a store".

Misfortune followed her to the very end. Investigators are now certain that she intended to kill only herself, and was oblivious to the grenades' lethal force. "She held the grenades on her lap and probably wanted to direct the explosion only against her own body," said a police spokesman.

Instead, she brought grief to families she never knew. Two sisters, aged 59 and 61, were killed in the blast and 13 people were injured, including a girl of 12 who will never fully recover.

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