Four killed as woman goes on gun rampage in German town

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The Independent Online

Four people were killed after an armed woman went on the rampage in a German town, which ended in a shoot-out at a hospital.

The woman was killed in a gun battle with police after she entered the St Elisabethen-Krankenhaus hospital in Loerrach, southern Germany, and started shooting. She had been seen running from a burning apartment building near by, in which firemen later discovered the bodies of a man and a child.

The woman shot dead one person in the hospital, thought to be a member of staff, and badly injured a police officer. She was killed after she started shooting at police.

Investigators said they were relieved that no one else was hurt during the shoot-out in the hospital. "There was a very heavy exchange of gunfire in the hospital that had the potential to be very dangerous, but based on what we know right now ... no one else was injured," said a state prosecutor, Dieter Inhofer.

The alarm was raised at about 6pm local time when shots were heard after an explosion in the apartment block where the bodies were later discovered. The gunwoman was seen running into the hospital from the apartment block and it is thought that the third person to die was known to her.

What the motive for the shootings were, however, remained unclear last night as the authorities began investigating the tragedy. Mr Inhofer said it was believed the deaths were all linked but he was unable to say what the relationships were between the killer and the victims.

The injured police officer, who was last night critically ill, is understood to have been at the hospital when the woman entered brandishing a gun, rather than being part of the armed response team who shot her dead.

It was unclear what the relationship was between the gunwoman and the man and child who were killed in the apartment. They are believed to have been shot but investigators are awaiting confirmation from a post-mortem examination.

A spokesman for the fire brigade said: "Firefighters were called out to an explosion at an apartment in a street near the hospital. Soon afterwards, firefighters found two bodies in the apartment."

Police said two people were killed inside the hospital and that a police officer was seriously wounded. They added that the bodies of a man and a child were found in the apartment block, having previously said a woman and a girl were found dead there.

Germany has been debating tougher controls on gun ownership since a teenager went on the rampage in March 2009 in the southern town of Winnenden near Stuttgart, killing 15 people at his old school before shooting himself. The boy's father went on trial on Thursday charged with failing to secure his gun properly. Both Winnenden and Loerrach are in the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg.

Germany's worst school shooting was in April 2002, when a gunman killed 17 people, including himself, at a high school in the eastern city of Erfurt.