German police are investigating an incident which took place Wednesday, 15 June, in which an American man allegedly sexually assaulted then threw two women over the edge of a steep gorge near Germany’s famous Neuschwanstein castle.
Here’s what we know.
On Wednesday afternoon, two American women, aged 21 and 22, were forced off a steep ledge at the Marienbrücke, a pedestrain bridge with sweeping views of the castle, which sits above a high river gorge.
“The two tourists met the man on a hiking tour east of the Marienbrücke,” Chief Public Prosecutor Thomas Hörmann told German tabloid Bild.
“The man then steered the two under a pretext to a trail that was difficult to see, which leads to a viewpoint,” Bavarian police said in a statement.
Once out of sight, the 30-year-old assailant reportedly tried to attack the women, going after the younger woman first, prompting the 22-year-old to try and defend her, police said.
“The younger of the two women was attacked by the suspect,” police spokesman Holger Stabik told the AP. “The older one tried to rush to her aid, was then choked by the suspect and subsequently pushed down a slope. ”
After that, the man made an “attempted sexual offence” on the 21-year-old and pushed her over the ledge as well, DW reports.
Who are the victims?
Officials haven’t released the names of those involved in the incident.
On Thursday, a spokesperson for the US Embassy did not confirm or deny whether those involved in the attack are Americans.
“The U.S. Consulate in Munich is monitoring the situation closely and is in contact with authorities. Due to privacy considerations, we are unable to comment further at this time,” officials told The Daily Beast.
How were they rescued?
Due to the harsh terrain around the gorge, specially trained members of the Alpine Task Force were involved in the attempted rescue of both women.
Witness Eric Abneri, a recent business graduate from the University of Pittsburgh who witnessed the incident, said he and friends arrived at the scenic overlook as a helicopter arrived and they saw rescuers lower themselves down to the victims.
“I’m honestly absolutely stunned someone is still alive from this. It is like falling from the top of an absolute cliff,” he said.
Mr Abneri described it as “a very, very difficult rescue because of those cliffs and because the helicopter came mere feet above the tree line at the top of the hill.”
“They did an unbelievable job,” he said.
Who is the alleged attacker?
Bavarian police said the attacker was a 30-year-old US national, DW reports.
Bystander video posted online showed police leading away a handcuffed, bearded man in a T-shirt, jeans and a baseball cap.
How was suspect captured?
The suspect was caught after a massive police operation involving 25 emergency vehicles on Wednesday afternoon and taken to a police station in nearby Fuessen.
Are police pressing charges?
The American suspect is in a German correctional facility, as officials investigate the attack as a potential sexual offence, murder, and attempted murder.
“The allegation is not yet established,” prosecutor Thomas Hörmann told DW.
Kempten criminal police are leading the investigation, and are asking those with knowledge of the incident to get in contact with them.
What is Neuschwanstein castle?
Neuschwanstein castle, nestled near the Austrian border, was built by King Ludwig II of Bavaria, with construction beginning in 1869.
The towering estate is one of Germany‘s most popular tourist attractions and is said to have been the inspiration for various Disney castles
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