Sat, Feb 12, 2011 - Page 6 News List

Dad guilty in son’s shooting spree

PARENTAL RESPONSIBLITY:Joerg Kretschmer was found guilty of manslaughter and of breaking gun laws for not locking his gun up so his son couldn’t get it

AFP, STUTTGART, GERMANY

A German court on Thursday handed down a 21-month suspended jail sentence to the father of a teenager who shot dead 15 people before killing himself at his old school in 2009.

Joerg Kretschmer, a 52-year-old businessman, was found guilty of manslaughter and of breaking gun laws.

His son Tim, 17, was able to take his father’s 9mm Beretta pistol in March 2009 and use it in his killing spree in the southern town of Winnenden.

Fearing a break-in, Joerg Kretschmer kept his gun by the bedside, rather than locking it away, a mistake the court said cost the lives of nine of Tim’s fellow students, three teachers and three others.

Presiding judge Reiner Skujat said the father had failed in his duty to keep the weapon in a secure place and knew that his son was “psychologically unstable.”

Nevertheless, the judge stressed that the father was not on trial for the crimes of his son.

“The accused is only a fraction as guilty as his son,” Skujat said.

Mitigating the sentence in the judge’s view was the fact that Kretschmer had cooperated with the court and had expressed regret.

The prosecution had argued for a two-year suspended sentence, whereas the defense had said that he had already suffered enough with the loss of his son and the knowledge of what he had done.

Kretschmer “will have to suffer his whole life knowing he was the father of a mass murderer,” Skujat said.

As the trial opened, Kretschmer offered a partial apology to the victims’ families, saying he “often asked himself how this could have happened” and that it was a “huge human failing” that he had not realized how disturbed his son was.

However, Kretschmer’s statement was read out by his lawyer and Kretschmer himself did not speak during the trial, a strategy the judge criticized as “strange and offensive” for the families of the victims.

“The question of how a 17-year-old could become a mass murderer and why all the warning signals were ignored remains unanswered,” the judge said.

Kretschmer’s lawyer, Hans Steffan, said his client would appeal the verdict, but was relieved that the sentence was suspended.

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