April 14. 2024. 6:24

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Hamburg police tipped off about gunman who went on to kill seven people

Police in Hamburg received an anonymous tipoff two months ago about the gunman who went on to kill seven people in a Jehovah’s Witness hall on Thursday, but he had persuaded them not to take away his gun.

A letter was received in January raising concerns about the mental health of Philipp F, 35, and his purchase of ammunition, but officers found no reason for concern when they visited him last month.

He went on to shoot dead four men and two women aged 33 to 60 and a seven-month-old female foetus during a rampage that started at 9pm on Thursday evening, that has also left eight injured, four seriously.

“He is a former member of Jehovah’s Witnesses who left the community voluntarily about a year and a half ago, but apparently not on good terms,” said Thomas Radszuweit, Hamburg’s head of state security.

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The suspect had a gun permit as a marksman and was in legal possession of a Heckler and Koch P30 gun.

He was visited in February after the anonymous letter was received that had suggested that the business consultant was suffering from mental ill health.

During a subsequent visit, Philipp F convinced the officers that there were no cause for concern.

Police chief Ralf Martin Meyer told a press conference that there had been no legal grounds to take away the man’s weapon, which he had owned since 2006.

Hamburg’s senator for interior affairs, Andy Grote, said: “It’s a horrible act. We have not had a mass attack of this magnitude. It is the worst crime in our city’s recent history.”

Mr Radszuweit said it is not yet possible to pinpoint why the man allegedly went on his rampage but there is no indication of a political motive.

The suspected gunman shot himself inside the hall after officers forced their way into the building, police say.

An eyewitness filmed what he believes to be the person responsible for the shooting in Hamburg, that left several dead and others wounded. Video: Reuters

“Eight people were fatally injured, apparently including the suspected perpetrator,” Hamburg police said, adding that several other people were injured in Thursday’s attack, “some seriously”.

Hamburg police initially said they had found seven seriously injured and 17 uninjured people when they arrived short at the kingdom hall in the Alsterdorf area, north of the city centre, after responding to emergency calls.

Warning of a “major operation” police sealed off the area, north of the city centre, and urged locals to stay at home and others to avoid the area.

Police in riot gear surrounded the building within minutes, warning that a perpetrator was possibly still at large. At 1.40am they reported finding a dead person “where we assume that it could be a perpetrator”.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz, a former governing mayor of Hamburg, described the shooting as a “brutal act of violence”. He said his thoughts were with the families of the dead “and the security forces who have a difficult night behind them”.

One neighbour said she heard periods of shooting lasting up to a minute.

“I looked out of the window and saw over at the Jehovah’s Witnesses how someone ran from the ground floor to the first floor,” said Ms Lara Bauch, a neighbour, to local media.

As they arrived at the scene, Hamburg police sent a message to residents’ mobile phones warning: “Find protection immediately in a building. Only telephone in an emergency so that the phone network doesn’t collapse.”

Police said they had no immediate indications of a motive for the attack in the residential district between the city centre and the airport. The website of the hall indicated that Thursday evening was one of two weekly prayer meetings, with a reported 40 people attending. — Additional reporting by The Guardian