The suspected murderer of a veteran German politician has links to a neo-Nazi group established in the UK, it was reported on Monday.
Stephan E., the only current suspect in the inquiry into the murder of Walter Lübcke, was an extremist with links to a neo-Nazi group called Combat 18, according to an unconfirmed report by Spiegel Online.
German public prosecutors on Monday did not specify any group involvement but confirmed that they believe far-right motives were behind the slaying, due to the suspect’s “personal history and statements he has made in the public realm.”
Combat 18 was founded by members of the British National Party in the 1990s. The numbers one and eight in its title stand for the initials of Adolf Hitler as they appear in the alphabet.
The German chapter of the group was considered one of the most dangerous neo-Nazi organisations in the country at the turn of the century.
It significance was thought to have dwindled, but according to a 2017 investigation by Germany’s public broadcaster officials had received hundreds of reports of renewed activity in recent years.
Mr Lübcke, the veteran head of district government in the central German city of Kassel, was shot in the head at close range on the night of June 2nd as he smoked a cigarette on his garden patio.
Due to its acute political importance, the case was taken over by federal prosecutors on Monday.
Stephan E. has reportedly already been convicted of two serious crimes, one of which was an arson attack on an asylum centre quarter of a century ago.
Police were able to identify him due to the fact that DNA found at the crime scene matched DNA kept on record after he was previously found guilty of a serious crime.
Investigators are now looking into whether any other people were involved in the murder. “At this stage we have no indication that the suspect was part of a wider terrorist network,” a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office said.
Mr Lübcke, a member of Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU), had become a hate figure for the Far-right after he made controversial statements regarding the refugee influx in 2015.
At a town hall meeting at the height of the migrant crisis, he told critics that if they didn’t agree with the government’s pro-refugee policy they were free to leave the country.