A kidnapped woman made a "remarkable" escape from a flat that had been rigged up like a torture chamber with a soundproofed box and medical instruments, German police say.
The handcuffed victim forced her way out of a window that had been covered with barbed wire while her captor's back was turned. The man, an acquaintance, had earlier kidnapped her and taken her to the flat in Barmbek, a suburb of Hamburg, where he held her at gunpoint for two hours.
Neighbours alerted police when the panic-stricken woman, a 26-year-old Israeli, escaped on Friday night. They subsequently arrested Thomas Fischer, 30, who was carrying a hand grenade and a loaded pistol. His victim said he had turned up at her flat that evening, suddenly threatened her with a gun and abducted her. The two were not thought to be in a relationship.
Mr Fischer had apparently intended to torture his victim, police said, but she had forced her way through the ground-floor window. "It was remarkable that she managed to escape so quickly as she was still handcuffed," a police spokesman said. He did not disclose the victim's identity.
Inside the flat, police found a yellow German telephone box, weighing more than a quarter of a ton, which had been adapted into a soundproofed cell. Investigators also took away gynaecological equipment, an inflatable sex doll and a metal helmet, as well as 113 fire extinguishers found in the basement of the building. Quantities of home-made explosives were found and several of the extinguishers appeared to have been turned into makeshift booby-trap bombs, police said. They also removed several wooden beams intended to be used to barricade the doors.
The flat contained large quantities of food, which suggested that Mr Fischer had intended to hold his victim hostage for a long period. He has refused to explain his motives or say anything to police since his arrest. Photographs of him, published in Germany's mass-circulation Bild newspaper, showed a thin man with a thick black beard wearing a baggy, grey shirt and dark trousers.
Only a sketchy impression of Mr Fischer has so far emerged from police investigations. He is reported to have met his victim three months ago and to have been a friendly but withdrawn individual who was happy to collect his neighbours' post when they were away. Police said he had been investigated several times in 2009 for stalking, but no charges had been brought.
It is not known whether Mr Fischer had an accomplice, but police said it would have been almost impossible for him to have manoeuvred a phone box of such weight into a small apartment on his own.
Mr Fischer explained his decision to cover his windows with barbed wire and install a security camera overlooking his front door, claiming they were measures designed to deter thieves.