Saturday 19 August 2017

Lorry driver should have been heading home to his son and wife - but delivery hitch kept him in Berlin

Ariel Zurawski, the owner of a Polish trucking company and cousin of Lukasz Urban, who was apparently the first victim of the attack in Berlin on Monday, speaks to reporters during a media conference in Sobiemysl, north-western Poland. (AP Photo)
Ariel Zurawski, the owner of a Polish trucking company and cousin of Lukasz Urban, who was apparently the first victim of the attack in Berlin on Monday, speaks to reporters during a media conference in Sobiemysl, north-western Poland. (AP Photo)

Gordon Rayner and Matthew Day

Lukasz Urban would have been safely on his way home on Monday afternoon - but a hitch meant he had to stay overnight in Berlin.

The Polish lorry driver had been due to unload his trailer shortly after he arrived in the German capital at 7am, but phoned his wife to say the delivery had been delayed until Tuesday. After a week and a half on the road, he had been looking forward to seeing his wife and son and was annoyed that he would have to stay.

Having bought a kebab for lunch, he went back to his lorry in Friedrich Krauze Ufer, and was last in contact with his family at 3pm. When his wife tried to call him back at 4pm, there was no answer.

"The phone was just silent. He should have picked up if he was on a break, particularly if his wife was calling," said his cousin Ariel Zurawski, who was also his boss at the trucking company.

In that intervening hour, 37-year-old Mr Urban had been hijacked by an armed assailant who would later use the lorry to carry out a murderous attack on a packed Christmas market.

Mr Urban would be found dead in the cab, shot and stabbed by the hijacker as he fought for his life - the first victim of the carnage.

Mr Urban, who had been a lorry driver for 15 years, had driven to Berlin from Italy with a cargo of 24 tonnes of steel parts destined for the steel firm Thyssenkrupp. He arrived at 7am on Monday, but was told he was a day early and could not unload until 8am on Tuesday.

Mr Zurawski said: "We spoke around noon. He wasn't happy because he had to stay in Berlin because he could not deliver the goods. We made a few jokes, we laughed. We nicknamed him the inspector because he was such a good worker and followed the regulations."

The Scania lorry was fitted with a global positioning system (GPS) that could be monitored by Mr Zurawski, and by mid-afternoon it was clear something was not right. "At 3.45pm you can see the movement on the GPS," he said. "The lorry was started up, turned off, driven forward, then backward, as if somebody inside was learning how to drive. I knew something was wrong."

The lorry later set off on its six-mile journey to the Breitscheidplatz market, and while the hijacker may not have known how to drive a truck, he appears to have known his way around Berlin.

Mr Zurawski said the GPS tracker showed that the lorry headed straight for the market, which was next to a major road, enabling it to pick up speed. At 8pm it smashed into the wooden market stalls at around 40mph, killing 12 people and injuring another 49.

Mr Urban was already dead by the time the attack was carried out. Mr Zurawski was asked to identify him from police photographs. "His face was swollen and bloodied," he said. "It was clear that he was fighting for his life. The police told me he had been not only stabbed but also shot."

Mr Urban, the father of a teenage boy, lived in the Western Polish village of Roznowo, near the border with Germany. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

Editors Choice

Also in World News