Suspect Stephan E. has admitted to Walter Lübcke’s killing, Federal Prosecutor General Peter Frank told members of Germany’s parliament on Wednesday morning.
Head of a regional government in the city of Kassel, Lübcke was found with a gunshot wound to the head on June 2. The 65-year-old was a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU).
Stephan E. said he acted alone, Bundestag member Ulla Jelpke told DW on Tuesday, after a special hearing of the parliamentary interior affairs committee, at which the heads of various security forces and Interior Minister Holger Seehofer briefed Bundestag members on the investigation.
But despite Stephan E.’s claims, police have evidence that he had accomplices and are continuing their investigation, Frank said. Stephan E. is believed to have had connections with a number of far-right organizations, including the militant Combat 18, the political party the National Democratic Party (NPD), as well as the neo-Nazi group the Autonome Nationalisten (“Autonomous Nationalists”).
“Of course we believe that he wants to cover others,” Jelpke, of the socialist Left party, told DW. “As you can imagine, investigations are taking place.”
Lübcke: a far-right target
News magazine Der Spiegel reported that Stephan E. said he had been specifically motivated by remarks made by Lübcke during a townhall meeting in October 2015, on the creation of a new refugee reception center.
Facing hecklers during the meeting, Lübcke said, “It is worth living in our country. Here you must stand up for values, and whoever doesn’t stand up for these values can leave this country any time if they don’t agree with them.” Some media reports also said Stephan E. attended the meeting himself, but that has not been confirmed.
A video of Lübcke’s remarks quickly spread in far-right circles, and was referred to in speeches at anti-immigration Pegida demos in 2015 and 2016. Lübcke subsequently received a number of death threats. During the hearing Frank described Lübcke as a “provocative figure” for the far-right.
DNA evidence and confession
In the weeks following the murder, authorities concluded that the killing was motivated by right-wing extremism. They arrested Stephan E. after finding DNA evidence linking him to the crime.
Frank also told the committee that the 45-year-old’s flat had been searched again, and more evidence collected, though the murder weapon, believed to be a 9-mm handgun, has not yet been found.
Photos have surfaced of E. with members of the militant neo-Nazi group Combat 18, and he has previously been convicted over attacks against minorities. At Wednesday’s hearing, Interior Minister Seehofer said the ministry would assess whether to ban Combat 18.
Hundreds of people gathered in Lübcke’s home town of Wolfhagen on Saturday for a vigil honoring his life. Thousands of people also joined protests against right-wing violence in Kassel and other German cities over the weekend.
Editor’s note: Our initial version of this story incorrectly stated that the suspect confessed as his trial began. The trial is yet to start. He has handed a confession to investigators.