Doubts arise over threat by teenage gunman

WINNENDEN, Germany Thu Mar 12, 2009 11:31pm GMT

1 of 5. An undated application photo presented during a Reuters TV interview with Mrs Elke Domaschke of Private Kaufmaennische Schule Donner+Kern shows Albertville-Realschule gunman Tim K.

Credit: Reuters/Reuters TV

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WINNENDEN, Germany (Reuters) - Doubts arose on Thursday whether the teenager who killed 15 people in a shooting rampage in Germany had given advance warning of his deadly plans in a chatroom the night before.

Police said they were investigating the claim, made by the regional interior ministry, that 17-year-old Tim Kretschmer had posted a message saying he planned to go to his former school with weapons and stage a "proper barbecue."

"Doubts emerged during the afternoon about the veracity of the entry in the Internet chatroom. Of course every piece of information, especially concerning this entry, is being vigorously examined," Waiblingen police said in a statement.

The chatroom website www.krautchan.net, which Kretschmer had allegedly used, posted a statement denying the claim.

"No killing spree was announced here," krautchan said.

Earlier, Heribert Rech, interior minister of Baden-Wuerttemberg state, told a news conference that Kretschmer had given an explicit warning about his intentions in a chatroom discussion with another 17-year-old in Bavaria.

"I've had enough," Rech quoted from the chatroom message.

"Always the same. Everybody's laughing at me. No one sees my potential. I'm serious. I have weapons and I will go to my former school in the morning and have a proper barbecue. Maybe I'll get away. Listen out. You will hear of me tomorrow. Remember the place's name: Winnenden."

Rech said Kretschmer's chatroom partner had not taken the message seriously at the time but had told his father after he saw reports of the shootings.

Kretschmer, described by neighbours as a loner with a fondness for violent videos, shot dead 12 people at his old school in the southern town of Winnenden and three more outside before turning the gun on himself when police cornered him.

Officials said on Thursday that Kretschmer had received psychiatric treatment for depression between April and September, before breaking off the sessions.

The motive for the attack remained unclear, although he seems to have targeted women. Eight of the nine students and all three of the teachers he killed in the school were female.

Investigators said on Thursday they had found pornographic pictures on his computer as well as violent video games.

GUNS FROM FATHER

Weeping students placed flowers, and candles at their school on Thursday, struggling to come to terms with a massacre that robbed them of classmates and teachers.

"I don't know if I can stay at this school. Every time you enter, the memories come back," student Christin Pluengel said.

Kretschmer fired 112 rounds, 60 in the school, and had 109 unused rounds with him when his body was found.

German authorities are looking into whether to press charges against his father, a member of a shooting club who had 15 guns and 4,600 rounds of ammunition at home.

Kretschmer shot many of his victims in the head at close range with his father's legally-registered 9-mm Beretta pistol.

The other 14 guns were locked in a gun-closet as required by German law but the Beretta was kept in the father's bedroom, police said.

"Everything here points to negligence on the part of the father as far as the storage of this weapon is concerned," police spokesman Ralf Michelfelder said.

Stuttgart prosecutor Siegfried Mahler said the father could face legal action if it became clear he had violated the law in storing his guns and prosecuted for involuntary manslaughter if evidence arose that his son had given him warnings of his plans.

Germany toughened its gun laws in 2002 after 19-year-old Robert Steinhauser shot dead 16 people, mainly teachers, and himself at a high school in the eastern German city of Erfurt.

Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told Reuters he saw no need to tighten gun controls further after the shooting.

"We shouldn't think about tougher laws all the time, but think about what we can change in society," he said.

(Additional reporting by Kerstin Gehmlich; writing by Noah Barkin and Madeline Chambers; editing by Angus MacSwan)

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