A man facing forcible eviction from his home took four people hostage and shot them dead before turning his gun on himself yesterday after he barricaded himself inside his apartment in the German city of Karlsruhe during a police siege of the building.
More than 200 armed police commandos were called to the scene in the city's northern suburbs around 9am after neighbours reported that several shots had been fired from inside the flat, in a former US army barracks.
State prosecutors said the unidentified 53-year-old killer had "executed" his victims and the incident appeared to have been carefully planned. They said he was equipped with a shotgun, two pistols, a hunting rifle and a hand grenade. He had shot and wounded hostages when they tried to flee.
Police said the hostage taker, who had a licence to hunt game, had been facing eviction because he had not paid his rent. He took a bailiff, a locksmith, the apartment's owner and a prospective tenant hostage when they appeared at his front door. The man barricaded himself inside his flat and held his hostages at gunpoint for several hours while police sealed off the surrounding area.
Police failed to make contact with the gunman despite repeated attempts. After three hours, commandos stormed the building when they smelled smoke and feared the gunman had set fire to the building. It emerged later that he had set fire to a carpet.
On entering the apartment, they found the gunman and all of his hostages dead. Police said they had all died from gunshot wounds. Rainer Stickelberger, the regional Justice Minister, described the shootings as "incomprehensible".