Man arrested in Germany over killing of British wargame fanatic

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The Independent Online

On the internet, he was Shade, webmaster of Wars Central, a brilliant strategist who commanded victorious armies. In reality he was a bespectacled young man who grew up in a small provincial town, remembered by his school friends as a shy boy who was fascinated by web designs.

But eight days ago fantasy and reality appear to have collided with terrible consequences. Matthew Pyke's girlfriend, Joanna Witton, came home to find he had been stabbed to death.

Yesterday, David Heiss, 21, from Limburg, outside Frankfurt, was being interviewed by German police, accused of murdering Mr Pyke, 20. British police and the Crown Prosecution Service were preparing extradition papers against Mr Heiss, a fellow game player who used the online alias Eagle the Lightning, and hope to bring him back to the UK within 10 days.

Police are investigating claims that the two men argued on the website run by Mr Pyke shortly before the murder. Certainly an anonymous post left on the forum of the website – dedicated to the Nintendo game Advance Wars – suggested something sinister. "I think I speak on behalf of those of us which do know a fair bit about what happened not to press us with questions. We may know a lot of what was going on prior to the killing but I, for one, am not going to say any more," it read.

Mr Pyke and Ms Witton – or Shade and JoJo as they were known – launched the Wars Central website eight months ago, announcing: "Our aim is to become one of the biggest and best fan resources for both the handheld-based Advance Wars series, and the console-based Battalion Wars."

Far from a graphically violent game, Advance Wars is more concerned with "chess like" strategy, pitting cartoon characters against each other, and Mr Pyke was remembered by one fan of the site as "witty" and "intelligent", loved for his "hilarious comics, his fantastic writing, and most of all his absolutely amazing company".

He had plans to re-enrol at Nottingham Trent University, having dropped out of a physics course after moving to the city from Stowmarket in Suffolk two years ago. But just after 6pm last Friday Ms Witton returned to the flat they shared above a pub in Nottingham's city centre to find him dead. There were no signs of forced entry.

Five days later Mr Heiss posted Ms Witton a message on her Facebook page: "I will pray for you, Jo. You must be suffering unbelievable pains. I'm sorry for having caused so much trouble lately. I hope you won't lose all your hope. We will be there for you." He added that he would "pray for everybody involved".

A senior detective from Nottinghamshire Police flew to Germany this week and on Wednesday evening police from Westhessen headquarters arrested Mr Heiss, a man who described himself as "an apprentice/ trainee" and "jack of all trades/general dogsbody" with an interest in video games, chess, football and liberal politics, in Hunfelden, in the rural district of Limburg.

Mr Pyke's parents William, 52, and Kim, 49, left a tribute to their son on his Facebook site: "You were a truly good, sensitive person. Your smile will live on in our hearts." His older brother, Adam, 24, described himself as "crushed" on his MySpace page.