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Germany

German police probe claims onlookers encouraged migrant boy suicide

Police in Schmölln have said there is no evidence to back up claims a migrant boy was encouraged by onlookers to jump to his death. The town's mayor claimed Saturday that onlookers had pushed the boy to commit suicide.

German police are investigating claims that onlookers encouraged a 17-year-old Somali asylum seeker with psychiatric problems to jump from an apartment building to his death.

Police in the eastern German town of Schmölln responded to a facility for unaccompanied youth migrants after receiving a call from social workers complaining of violence. When they arrived the Somali boy was sitting on the ledge of a fifth-story window.

The police and fire department tried to persuade the boy not to jump, but he leaped and died later in the hospital from his injuries.

The tragic incident gained attention after the town's mayor Sven Schrade said Saturday that there was information that some onlookers had encouraged the boy to spring to his death.

"We have received information that some onlookers who observed the incident for a while called out 'Jump, already,'" Mayor Sven Schrade told local MDR news. "Nobody can defend such a thing."

However, investigators on Sunday said they had so far not found any evidence to indicate onlookers encouraged the boy to commit suicide.

Schrade was apparently referring to something he heard from a worker at the facility.

But after police questioned the woman she gave a vague response, saying she heard somebody yell something that could be interpreted as "Jump, already."

No evidence to back up allegations

Police and firefighters who were at the scene on Friday heard no such encouragement for the boy to commit suicide, investigators said. "We didn't hear anybody yelling or anything similar," said a spokesperson from the Thüringen state police.

Police also added there was an interpreter at the scene, and the boy knew little if any German to understand any encouragement to commit suicide.

A previous report, that onlookers had recorded the incident with cellphones, has also gained clarity. Investigators said one person took a video of the unfolding scene with a cellphone, but deleted the footage after police requested him to do so.

As a result, investigators are unable to rely on the video to determine whether someone in the crowd encouraged the boy to jump.

The mass circulation "Bild" newspaper on Saturday quoted witnesses at the scene saying they did not encourage the boy to jump. Others said they encouraged the boy to jump but not for racist reasons - rather so that the boy would land in a safety catch net the fire department had set up below.

In the end, the boy missed the net. Investigators are also looking into how that happened.

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Treated for depression

According to police, the Somali boy had been in Schmölln since April. Before he returned to the youth facility on Friday he had spent a week at a nearby psychiatric clinic for depression.

Last year, Germany received more than 800,000 asylum seekers, triggering a backlash from some segments of society against the influx of foreigners.

Many of the asylum seekers come from conflict zones and have experienced trauma on their way to Europe.

There is a growing recognition that many asylum seekers may require mental health treatment, but the large influx of migrants has challenged Germany's capacity.

cw/cmk (dpa, Reuters, MDR Thüringen)

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