Man Accused of Pushing Boy Under German Train Was Wanted by Swiss Police

BERLIN—A 40-year-old Eritrean man accused of killing an 8-year-old boy by pushing him under a train in Frankfurt on Monday, July 29, was wanted by police in Switzerland, where he had been granted asylum, German police said on Tuesday.

In an incident that has horrified Germany, the man first pushed the boy’s mother, 40, onto the track, but she rolled away. He then pushed the boy under an oncoming train before trying to push a 78-year-old woman, who fell over on the platform, federal police chief Dieter Romann said.

boy killed by train after push
Police officers and rescue workers recover a body under an ICE highspeed train at the main station in Frankfurt, Germany on July 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

The same man brandished a knife at a female neighbor in Switzerland last Thursday and threatened to kill her, before fleeing, Romann said.

“As a result, Switzerland issued a national arrest warrant,” Romann told a news conference.

The man appears to have entered Germany legally, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said at the same news conference.

German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer and Dieter Romann
German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer and Dieter Romann, Head of German Federal Police, attend a news conference a day after a man killed an 8-year-old boy by pushing him on to train tracks at Frankfurt’s main train station, in Berlin, Germany on July 30, 2019. (Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters)

The man was caught by police as he tried to flee Frankfurt station. Frankfurt prosecutors have applied for a formal warrant to arrest him on one charge of murder and two counts of attempted murder—for the boy’s mother and the 78-year old woman, state prosecutor Nadja Niesen said.

If convicted he would face a life sentence.

“The nature of the crime would lead you to think of a psychological illness,” Niesen said, but she added that tests were still underway to establish whether that is the case.

Germany train incident
A mourner puts down flowers for an eight-year-old boy who was pushed by a man in front of an oncoming train and died at the main train station in Frankfurt, Germany on July 30, 2019. (Ralph Orlowski/Reuters)
German train incident 5
Messages of mourning, candles, flowers and plush toys are placed by people for an eight-year-old boy who was pushed by a man in front of an oncoming train and died at the main train station in Frankfurt on July 30, 2019. (Ralph Orlowski/Reuters)

“There is no indication that he was under the influence of alcohol or drugs,” she told reporters, adding that the suspect took a breath test immediately and it showed no abnormal results.

The man has three children. Romann said he arrived in Switzerland in 2006 and was granted asylum there in 2008. He was well integrated in Switzerland and classified as “exemplary in the view of the asylum authorities” there, Romann added.

Niesen said there was no reason to think the incident was linked to a case last week in Waechtersbach, near Frankfurt, when a German attacked an Eritrean and then killed himself.

Seehofer said Germany needed to increase its police numbers. The government would review security arrangements at stations across the country, including the possibility of more video surveillance, he said.

Open Borders

Germany opened its borders to anyone who wanted to migrate there in 2015, drawing castigation from some Germany and praise from others. More than 1.6 million people seeking asylum entered the country since 2014. The country’s Federal Statistics Office said late last year that 10.6 million people with foreign citizenship now reside in Germany, or roughly one in every eight people living in the country of 82 million.

Immigration protests
People take part in a march organized by the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) political party and carry German flags and portraits of victims of violence allegedly perpetrated by migrants. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

The number of people from Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Romania, and Croatia rose by 12.5 percent year on year, the office said. A number of the Eastern European countries have joined the European Union since 2004, enabling nationals to travel freely within the bloc.

Citizens of Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq made up 11.2 percent of the total number of foreigners in Germany.

About 58 percent of Germans responding to a 2018 survey said they want fewer immigrants migrating to the country while 30 percent said they want about the same number and 10 percent said they want more.

NTD News reporter Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.