Starting Monday, Philipp K. will stand trial: He is alleged to have sold the gun that David Sonboly used to shoot nine people. Did he know about the plans?
Remembering the victims: Munich on July 22, 2016, one year after the rampage Photo: dpa
It will be the very public that Philipp K. steps into on Monday. In the room A101 of the Munich Higher Regional Court with one hundred audience seats. It is the room in which Beate Zschape and the NSU right-wing terror are usually tried. Now all eyes will be on Philipp K.. Until a year ago, he preferred a shadowy existence: on the Internet’s darknet.
The prosecution accuses Philipp K. of nine counts of negligent homicide and unlawful arms trafficking. The unemployed salesman, 32 years old, tall and strong, is said to be the one who sold the murder weapon, a Glock 17, to the Munich amok runner David Sonboly. A little over a year ago, on July 22, 2016, the 18-year-old shot and killed nine people – almost all of them teenagers – near the Olmpia shopping center, including himself. And put an entire city in a state of emergency.
Many feared a terrorist attack at the time. Panic broke out throughout the city after the shooting, with hundreds of heavily armed police combing through streets. Only after hours did two policemen discover Sonboly in a side street – who then shot himself. For the investigators, the case is now closed: It was not terror, but the act of a depressed youth who had been bullied for years.
For the victims’ families, however, questions remain to this day. Is this the whole truth? Why did only migrants die in the rampage? Roberto R., Can L., Selcuk K., Armela S., Sevda D., Giuliano K., Dijamant Z., Chousein D., Sabina S. Did racism not also play a role in the crime?
The families are therefore following the trial of Philipp K. Several relatives are represented as joint plaintiffs in the proceedings. "The families are not at peace with the question of why their children in particular were murdered," says Yavuz Narin, one of their lawyers. "It would be good if this trial could provide them with answers."
Handover at bus station
In fact, the trader Philipp K. was already under powerful pressure before the trial opened. In August 2016, three weeks after the rampage, police officers had arrested him. They had found K. via the darknet, a shielded, encrypted part of the Internet. He had been selling weapons there since 2014. The officers faked a weapons deal, using the data of a previously arrested customer. During the handover in K.’s residence in Marburg, Philipp K. was arrested.
A few weeks earlier, in May, Philipp K. had. sold the Glock rounds of ammunition for 4,000 euros to a certain "Mauracher" via the Darknet. This handover also took place in Marburg, at the bus station. Four days before the Munich rampage, K. handed over another 350 rounds of ammunition for 350 euros to "Mauracher" there. "Mauracher" was David Sonboly.
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The fact that people could be killed with the weapon he supplied must have been foreseeable for him, says the indictment against Philipp K. Especially with so much ammunition sold along with it. K. must therefore accept responsibility for the nine deaths in the rampage. Even more, there is still the possibility that the defendant might have known about Sonboly’s plans to run amok. If so, the verdict would ultimately be accessory to nine counts of murder – and carry a sentence of up to 15 years in prison.
After K.’s arrest, investigators tried to reconstruct his life. The 32-year-old had repeatedly lost his jobs, sometimes as a warehouse worker, sometimes as a forklift driver. In between, he was homeless, so he moved in with his girlfriend in Marburg.
Since 2014, he had been on the darknet. As "Rico", he offered pistols and rifles in the forum "Germany on the Deep Web". Weapons that he had previously obtained in Switzerland or the Czech Republic, also via the darknet.
Fellow users regarded Philipp K. as an oddball because of his unusual penchant for handing over goods in person. In his chats, he also revealed his convictions. In conversations with a friend, he spoke of "Turk rats," "nigger monkeys" or "Salafist scum.
"One should crush this nest of vipers before it becomes a danger to Europe," he wrote. Philipp K. regularly ended his messages with "Hitler lives." On his cell phone, investigators found swastika pictures and a copy of Hitler’s "Mein Kampf." In a video, Philipp K. can be seen giving the Hitler salute.
The arms dealer Philipp K. regularly ended his messages with "Hitler lives".
When investigators later ask him about it, K. says it was fun. He thought nothing of it. This is noted as "unbelievable" in the files. Elsewhere, there is talk of an "obviously right-wing attitude" on the part of Philipp K..
This also applied to David Sonboly. The German-Irish citizen, son of a cab driver and a saleswoman, grew up in the north of Munich, in a rather difficult neighborhood. He was bullied from the fifth grade on. Classmates call him a "monkey," laugh at him whenever he says something, shove or slap him.
According to investigators, Sonboly suffers from "massive mental disorders." He retreats to his parents’ apartment, plays excessive first-person shooter games. Over the years, he has become obsessed with revenge fantasies, the investigators reconstruct. In the end, he developed a "deep hatred" for Turkish and Albanian migrants – whose group of people he now holds generally responsible for the bullying.
Sonboly, on the other hand, is proud to be "Aryan" as an Iranian and a German. Iran is considered the home of the "Aryans." Instead of his birth name Ali, he has his name changed to David on his 18th birthday – just a few weeks before his rampage. Witnesses remembered his curses about "Kanacken" in computer games and his sympathies for the AfD.
He also admired Anders Breivik, the Norwegian right-wing extremist who shot 77 people six years ago, almost all of the victims were teenagers. According to investigators, he was "fascinated" by the assassination; Sonboly made Breivik’s photo his WhatsApp profile picture. In psychotherapy, he shouts "Sieg Heil" and draws swastikas on a block. Asked by a fellow patient if he is a Nazi, Sonboly denies it.
Hatred of "cockroaches" and "subhumans
Former acquaintances have long since withdrawn. They perceive Sonboly as confused, not so much as right-wing extremist. Sonboly himself wrote a two-page "manifesto" a year before his crime. In it, he laments years of bullying against him and outlines his thoughts of revenge. He also writes of a "virus" with which his district is infected: by "foreign subhumans" and "cockroaches." People he will "execute."
After Sonboly had taken the Glock from Philipp K. After he had bought the car with the money he had laboriously saved up to distribute newspapers or to help out in his cousin’s PC business, this plan became concrete. During the handover, the Munich resident was still ranting about "shitty Turks" who had allegedly scratched his car, Philipp K. recalled during his interrogation.
But he only needed the gun "for self-protection", Sonboly claimed. When K. also offered him a defective submachine gun, the 18-year-old allegedly refused. "He wanted something with which he could shoot off directly," K. told investigators.
At home, Sonboly tests the Glock in the basement of his apartment building, firing at stacks of newspapers. The neighbors don’t notice. Sonboly films himself during the shooting exercises. The AfD will eliminate the German Turks, he shouts in one of the recordings.
The crime: On July 22, 2016, 18-year-old student David Sonboly killed nine people in a rampage in Munich. The victims all had a migration background, their families came from Kosovo, Turkey, Hungary and Greece. Two and a half hours after the crime, police confronted Sonboly, whereupon he shot himself.
The weapon: The murder weapon was a theater pistol from Slovakia, a Glock 17. Sonboly had bought it on the Darknet from Philipp K., together with ammunition for 4,350 euros. The dealer lived in Marburg and financed his life with illegal arms sales. He had rearmed the Glock 17 and removed the serial number.
A few days before the rampage, he sent chat messages to a "Bastian". "Our enemies now are Salafists, economic refugees, Merkel," he declares. "Bastian" responds, "You’re going to stop everything and the AfD will be pushed up by us, the Salafists will be targeted." This "Bastian," officials determine after their investigation, is "almost certainly" a fictional character, created by Sonboly.
But these chats also make it clear: Sonboly by no means committed his crime in the heat of the moment, but prepared it over months. And his victims were no longer supposed to be those who specifically bullied him. They were migrants per se.
A few hours before his rampage, Sonboly created a final document on his computer. He writes only two sentences: "The bullying will pay off today. The harm that was done to me will be returned." The 18-year-old gives the document the title: "I will now wipe out every German Turk no matter who.docx". Then he sets off in the evening with his Glock. As Sonboly lashes out, he shouts, "You bullied me for seven years, now I’m going to fuck all of you!" But also, "I hate you Muslims!" It is the fifth anniversary of the Breivik assassination.
The investigators nevertheless state in their final report, "It is not to be assumed that the act was politically motivated." It is true that the migrant appearance of the victims played a "decisive" role for Sonboly. Nevertheless, his hatred and "irrational worldview" stemmed from years of bullying. Also, Sonboly had not only been interested in Breivik, but in a large number of spree killers. The Bavarian Office for the Protection of the Constitution also states in its own report on Sonboly that an "internalization" of an extremist ideology had not taken place in Sonboly "up to the time of his death".
The victims’ families have their doubts about this. "Both the assassin and his weapons supplier were obviously right-wing extremists," says their lawyer Yavuz Narin. "That the act, which was directed exclusively against the migrants they both despised, should nevertheless have nothing to do with their views is difficult to convey to the families."
"The system has failed"
When families gathered in July for the first anniversary of the rampage, for an official memorial near the crime scene, Sibel Leyla, the mother of 14-year-old Can, who was shot, also spoke. An "overwhelming darkness" had descended on her family since her son’s death, Leyla said. After a few sentences, she burst into tears, and an acquaintance continued to recite her speech. In addition to the darkness, she said, she now carries "a great anger" inside her. An anger that is directed against all those who should have prevented the crime. She could not believe that this was committed by only one perpetrator. "My anger tells me that the system has failed."
Objections are also coming from politicians. "There needs to be a reassessment of the crime," says Katharina Schulze, head of the Green Party parliamentary group in the Bavarian state parliament. "More and more circumstantial evidence suggests that the rampage was also racially motivated. And this motive must be named as such."
The case of David Sonboly, meanwhile, is closed for investigators. The perpetrator is dead, his file closed. Only the proceedings against Philipp K. remain. And here, further questions have recently come to the fore. Did K. not only share the ideology of David Sonboly, but did he also know about Sonboly’s plans? Did he even encourage them? After all, the two sat together for three hours at their first meeting, which was quite a long time for a handover of weapons.
Back in September 2016, a darknet user named "blab" contacted the police. For a fee of 2,500 euros in the Internet currency Bitcoin, he could present "incriminating material" on "Rico" alias Philipp K., proving his involvement in a "mass murder". The investigators demanded "more specifics" from "blab" – then the contact broke off. But "blab" had already written to another user that "Rico" had been enthusiastic about "Mauracher": that "finally someone was pulling it off". And how "Rico" had allegedly given tips for the rampage. The investigators rate "blab" as untrustworthy.
The murder weapon, a Glock 17 Photo: dpa
In the spring, however, a fellow inmate of Philipp K. also came forward. He also stated that K. had told him that he had known about the rampage in advance. The Munich public prosecutor’s office does not want to comment on this. A spokesman says only this much: "Of course, every tip is followed up. However, the authorities apparently do not see this as substantiated here either.
Already in the final report of the investigators from March it is excluded that Philipp K. was in on the Amokplane. More than 2,000 interrogations had been carried out and 1,000 videos had been evaluated: There is no evidence that other people knew about the plans. Even family members or acquaintances of Sonboly could not have foreseen the crime.
Victim advocate Narin, on the other hand, demanded that the proceedings against Philipp K. be split up and that, for the time being, only his other arms sales be dealt with. Because only in June the BKA had taken up "Germany in the Deep Web" – the Darknet forum, in which K. was active. The evaluation of the data is still ongoing. Narin hopes that material on Philipp K. may still be found in the data. The court and the public prosecutor’s office, however, rejected the separation. According to the spokesman of the public prosecutor’s office, it is possible at any time, even during the trial, to upgrade the accusation to accessory to murder – if this can be proven.
Philipp K.’s lawyers do not comment on any of these accusations. Philipp K. himself confessed to the investigators about the arms deal with David Sonboly. However, he denied that he knew about the amok plan. The same applies to his right-wing convictions.
Thus, it remains unclear how exactly Philipp K. keeps it with the truth. He "collapsed" when he learned that his client was the Munich spree killer. This is how he described it to the investigators. He was very sorry about the whole thing.
His girlfriend, however, described the situation differently during her interrogation. There was no talk of Philipp K. being shaken. Rather, he had shown her an article about his gun deal after the rampage, and had done so with pride.