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German ‘autobahn sniper’ caught after five-year spree

File - Picture taken on November 20, 2012 shows a person pointing on a bullet hole in a car door during a press conference of the Federal Office of Criminal Investigation in Wiesbaden, western Germany. (AFP PHOTO / DPA / FREDRIK)

BERLIN: A German truck driver has confessed to being the mysterious “autobahn sniper” who for over five years fired more than 700 shots at passing vehicles on highways, citing “anger and frustration about traffic” as his motive, police said Tuesday. The 57-year-old man’s sustained road rage, which left one woman driver badly injured with a neck wound but claimed no deaths, had baffled police since it started in 2008.

Investigators struggled to find the shooter because the impact holes on the targeted vehicles, mostly other trucks but also cars and camper vans, were usually only discovered when they arrived at their destinations, making it hard to pinpoint where they were hit.

A multistate police taskforce with 90 officers used data from trucks’ on-board computers, hidden roadside cameras with number plate recognition and mobile phone networks to narrow down suspect vehicles and eventually identify the man, broadcaster Suedwestrundfunk reported.

The man, identified by German media as Michael K., was arrested in his western home state of North Rhine-Westphalia Sunday. Police said they discovered several firearms of different calibers and 1,300 rounds of ammunition in his home.

He faces multiple charges, including attempted manslaughter and serious assault for shooting the woman in 2009.

Federal Police President Joerg Ziercke said the man had confessed, citing “anger and frustration about traffic” as the reason he fired at least 762 shots over the years while driving his truck.

Investigators consider the man a “frustrated loner with a hatred for people,” said the chief prosecutor of the Bavarian city of Wuerzburg, Dietrich Geuder, who added that the vigilante saw traffic as “a war.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 26, 2013, on page 10.

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