German who bombed Dortmund football team bus faces verdict
Sergej Wenergold, 29, had hoped to profit financially from the attack by betting on an anticipated plunge in the club’s stock market value, say prosecutors.
The court in the western city of Dortmund will have to decide whether he is guilty of 28 counts of attempted murder, which would carry a maximum term of life in prison.
The trained electrician, who was born in Russia, also faces charges of causing an explosion and two counts of causing serious injury, as the blasts wounded Spanish defender Marc Bartra and a police officer on a motorcycle.
After an 11-month trial, justice Peter Windgaetter was expected to announce the verdict around 2pm local time (1300 GMT).
Wenergold had stayed in the same hotel as the team when he remotely triggered the bomb attack on the evening of April 11, 2017 as the bus was heading for a Champions’ League match against Monaco.
He had hidden in a hedge three explosive devices, each of which contained up to a kilogramme (2.2 pounds) of a hydrogen peroxide mixture and about 65 cigarette-sized metal bolts.
Wenergold had left letters suggesting an Islamist terrorist motive at the scene, sparking initial alarm about a possible jihadist attack.
Wenergold’s defence lawyer Carl Heydenreich said his client had hoped to spark panic and terror, not to wound or kill people, and asked for lenient punishment well below 10 years’ prison.
Heydenreich blamed the defendant’s “narcissistic personality” and told the court Wenergold had wanted to “commit the perfect crime to please his ego — he wanted the gains without doing harm”.
Prosecutors called this claim “nonsense” and argued that the defendant had aimed to kill as many players as possible.
A physics expert testified in September that Wenergold could not have controlled the explosive power of the blasts, saying that “a layman cannot control such bombs”.
Wenergold had bought put options worth some 26,000 euros ($29,000) — essentially a bet on the club’s share price falling — and had hoped to gain half a million euros, said prosecutors.
The defendant reportedly drew attention to himself at the hotel, first by insisting on a window room facing the front and then, in the chaos after the blasts, by calmly walking into its restaurant to order a steak.
Police arrested Wenergold 10 days after the attack.
Several players of Borussia Dortmund, the current Bundesliga leaders, gave emotional testimony during the trial about the trauma they suffered.
A day after the attack, Dortmund played their postponed game against Monaco and lost, prompting then coach Thomas Tuchel to rail against UEFA for not giving the players time to come to terms with their fear before returning to the pitch.
Wenergold, who confessed to the attack in January, voiced his regret last week when he told the court: “I would like to apologise to everybody.”
If found guilty, Wenergold faces a maximum term of life in prison, although in Germany parole is usually granted after 15 years.