Massacre in Winnenden School Shooting Internet Post a Fake

On Thursday, German police said they had made great strides toward developing a profile of the gunman in the Wednesday shooting spree which killed 15 people. But one key piece of evidence -- a posting in an Internet chat room -- has turned out to be fake.

The Baden-Württemberg Interior Minister was confident as he spoke to the dozens of reporters who had gathered at midday on Thursday to hear the newest developments. It was just over 24 hours after Tim K. had gone on a shooting spree killing a total of 15 people. All of Germany wanted answers.

A screen shot of the alleged chat room posting by Tim K. Police announced on Thursday that it is most likely a fake.

A screen shot of the alleged chat room posting by Tim K. Police announced on Thursday that it is most likely a fake.

The minister, Heribert Rech, announced one of the most important finds himself. In the night before the 17-year-old shooter went on his rampage, Rech said, he had logged into an Internet forum and written: "I am going to go to my former school tomorrow and thoroughly toast it…. Remember the name of the town Winnenden."

Unfortunately, the forum entry was most likely a fake. Just hours after Rech announced the existence of the post, Stuttgart prosecutors on Thursday evening said that "in the course of the afternoon, doubts arose about the authenticity of the Internet chat."

Journalists at the press conference had been skeptical of Rech's certainty. Indeed, SPIEGEL ONLINE had received a number of e-mails on Wednesday evening highlighting the alleged posting -- found on a German language forum called -- but elected not to publish the information due to substantial doubts about the veracity of the message.

Rech, though, swept away the doubts at the press conference, saying that investigators had found the relevant data on K.'s computer. As a result, newspapers and Web sites around Germany -- including SPIEGEL ONLINE -- ran with the story. On Thursday evening, though, a police spokesman said that investigators had not, in fact, found any traces that K. had been responsible for the posting. Indeed, it appears that K. had already shut his computer off well before the fake posting's 2:46 a.m. time stamp.

"Some crazy must have put this false message into the world," Rech told Süddeutsche Zeitung late on Thursday. But the state interior minister defended himself, saying "I constantly made it clear that the investigation results were preliminary."

Investigators say they intend to question the Bavarian father and his 17-year-old son who first alerted them to the existence of the faked posting. The chat-room operators, who are based in the US, are also being questioned. On Thursday, the forum's servers crashed as a mass of visitors tried to log on. A message was posted reading, "Unfortunately our small servers are unable to deal with the current demand. But, there also isn't anything to see, because the German press (likely not for the first time) was regrettably deceived by a falsification. There was no rampage announced here."

Despite the mistake, however, German officials are still taking Internet postings seriously. An overnight chat room posting was found threatening violence at a school in the town of Ilsfeld in southwestern Germany. The school has been cordoned off on Friday morning and officials are searching the premises.

cgh -- with wire reports


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