Killer had massacre fixation
Gunman hacked Facebook and posed as a girl in order to lure people to murder scene, says Janek Schmidt
Published 24/07/2016 | 02:30
The teenager who shot and killed nine people in the Munich massacre used Facebook to lure his victims to a McDonald's, police said yesterday.
Ali David Sonboly, 18, launched his killing spree in the Bavarian city in an apparent revenge attack for being bullied. It is now thought he targeted youngsters of "Turkish and Arab" origin, having claimed those groups had picked on him in school.
Sonboly, who killed himself at the end of the attack, had set up a fake Facebook account using the identity of a pretty teenage girl.
Using the name "Selina Akim", Sonboly posted a message hours before the attack saying: "Come today at 4 pm to Meggi [McDonald's] at OEZ [Olympic shopping mall]. I am giving away anything you want as long as it's not too expensive."
It is not clear who fell for the ruse and beforehand one acquaintance had warned young people to stay clear.
"This here is a fake account of one Ali Sonboly. Don't get your hopes up," wrote Lukas Dore, adding: "The boy is psychologically disturbed and only wants attention."
Among those he murdered were a group of four children - aged 14 and 15 - who were mown down at the table where they were eating.
The teenage friends comprised two boys of Turkish origin and two girls from Kosovan families, bolstering the theory that Sonboly chose his victims as he rampaged through McDonald's and into a busy shopping centre.
In all, seven of his victims were teenagers and the oldest was a 45-year-old mother of two of Turkish descent.
Sonboly was also obsessed with violent video games and was particularly active on an online network called Steam which allows users to play together, exchanging messages using keyboards and to talk via headsets.
According toGerman newspaper Bild, several of Sonboly's classmates had blocked him on the network after he began sending them abusive messages. Sonboly was able to return to the Steam network under different aliases and continued to send them abuse.
Among the aliases he used were 'Psycho', 'Until I see sense no more', and 'Godlike'.
Then, on the day of the attack, Sonboly sent a final message to fellow students via interconnected headsets used to play the games remotely: "Come to the McDonald's and I will come and get you and shoot you."
At the time they dismissed the message as "hot air".
Sonboly's transformation into a killer stunned those who had watched the uneasy boy grow up
The 18-year-old was known to neighbours and schoolmates as a chubby loner who was shunned by classmates and shunned his local community in turn, rarely seen unless he was out on a paper round delivering a local free-sheet. In fact he finished his last paper round on Friday evening, hours before he set off to kill his victims.
He had sought treatment for depression and psychiatric problems. Classmates, family friends and neighbours said the tall, withdrawn young man had always seemed more shy than violent. Police confirmed that he had no criminal record and had never crossed the radars of German intelligence services.
"He wasn't intimidating-looking, but a little strange in character," " said Stephan Baumanns, the 47-year-old owner of a bakery and coffee shop near the Sonboly family apartment. "He always seemed a bit nervous."
Baumanns knew the gunman's taxi-driver father by sight and caught glimpses of the teenager on his rounds, sometimes cutting them short by throwing piles of the free papers he was paid to deliver into a nearby rubbish bin.
Ali Sediq, a 29-year-old neighbour whose son played football sometimes with Sonboly's younger and more outgoing brother, echoed the cafe owner's bewilderment.
"The rest of the family seemed perfectly fine to me. Even him - though he was very withdrawn and a strange character - at least he was earning his own money with his newspaper round," he said. "I never would have thought he could do such an attack."
The timid appearance was deceptive, however. A few floors above Baumanns' cafe the teenage outcast was studying mass killers and preparing for murder himself.
He acquired a powerful black-market handgun, stockpiled bullets, practised target games on his computer, and read about US school shootings in a book by a US academic, Why Kids Kill.
Sonboly's interest in American school killers appears to have been matched by his admiration for another teenage attacker who killed 15 people after opening fire at his old school in the German town of Winneden in 2009.
Former classmates said the German-Iranian, shy and overweight child of a couple who moved to Germany in the 1990s as asylum seekers, was an unhappy outcast among other students.
"At school Ali was often bullied by others and was really unpopular," said one 14-year-old classmate, who lived in the same building as the gunman and was a couple of years behind him at the local middle school, one of the third-tier institutions in Germany's streamed education system.
"He was either by himself or together with one or two people at school, but he seemed to have hardly any friends," she added. The teenager was one of the last people to see Ali before he took up a Glock semi-automatic pistol and fired it with chilling calm outside the shopping centre.
"Yesterday at noon I came home and I saw Ali here in the entrance of our building. He was still delivering newspapers the day of the shooting. It was strange, though," she remembered. "He usually at least says 'Hi' to me, because I do know him, but when I greeted him, he didn't say a word to me and seemed strange and withdrawn."
Within hours he had gunned down nine people.
Sonboly opened fire on the fifth anniversary of far-right terrorist Anders Breivik's killing spree in Norway, and then committed suicide on the outskirts of the Olympic village where Germany's most notorious terror attack, the Black September massacre, unfurled in 1972.
Regional security forces were already on high alert on Friday afternoon, because less than a week earlier another violent youth had launched the first Isil-linked attack in Germany. A teenage refugee armed with an axe and a knife had assaulted a group of tourists on a train, and a woman walking her dog, before police shot him dead.
So when gunshots were first reported at the OEZ shopping centre, near the former Olympic Games site in Munich, panic spread faster across the city than hard news. Three men spotted running from the site of the attack - who later turned out to be panicked survivors - and unfounded reports of other shootings paralysed the Bavarian capital.
Police shut down public transport networks, ordered cars off motorways, put all hospitals on alert and used a smartphone warning system to request members of the public to stay at home. They also asked journalists and people on social media to avoid sharing photos of the security forces in case it tipped off possible attackers.
It took several hours, and a bomb-disposal robot that checked Sonboly's body for booby-trap explosives, to confirm that in fact there was only one attacker, and he had committed suicide early on in the evening.
In the hours that followed, police began trying to unpick the tangled motives of the dead man. They rapidly ruled out any connection to Isil, or Islamist extremist terror, highlighting instead the "obvious link" to the anniversary of Breivik's killings on the island of Utoya. Like Breivik, Sonboly seems to have intentionally targeted the young.
He may even have known some of the victims, as the McDonald's restaurant he chose as the site for his massacre was one he knew well and had often visited as a customer.
"When you see that so many children and teenagers from so many nations are among the victims, that simply tears your heart apart," said Germany's interior minister, Thomas de Maiziere.
Chancellor Angela Merkel admitted that the attack, coming just days after the Isil violence on the train and the slaughter in the French city of Nice had left many Germans asking, "where is safe?" But she said security services would "do everything possible to protect the security and freedom of all people in Germany".
And in the road outside the Sonboly home, a gentrified neighbourhood where their social housing block sits beside a Maserati showroom, local residents vowed not to let the killings disrupt their city or their daily lives.
"I don't think it will make me feel different about the neighbourhood," said Sebastian, the 30-year-old owner of a PR agency in the next building. "We shouldn't go crazy over it. This could happen anywhere."
Germans took some comfort amid the horror from video footage of a man confronting Sonboly as he paced a car park roof near the site of the massacre.
Thomas Salbey told Bild that he was having a beer when he heard shots. "I looked down from my balcony and saw how the man went through the glass entrance-way. He had reloaded his pistol. I threw my beer bottle at him," Salbey said.
When Sonboly appeared on the car park roof, Salbey shouted at him: "Arsehole." He also said: "Are you crazy!" The gunman answered: "I'm German", to which the reply came: "You're a wanker is what you are."
The man then fired at Salbey, whose balcony is flecked by bullet holes. "I was not scared. I didn't know whether they were real bullets, or just rubber bullets," he said.