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German teen Niklas P. laid to rest

Kate BradyMay 21, 2016

Some 500 mourners have gathered in the western German city of Bonn for the funeral of Niklas P. The 17-year-old from the Bad Godesberg district died after being brutally beaten while waiting to catch the bus home.

Bad Godesberg memorial for Niklas P.
Image: DW/C. Bleiker

Addressing the congregation at St. Marien Church in Bad Godesberg on Saturday, dean Wolfgang Picken described Niklas P. as a "polite and humorous young man."

"How is it possible," Picken asked, "that people from our society are capable of such a thing?"

Seventeen-year-old Niklas was on his way home from a concert with friends on the night of Friday, May 6, when the group - which included his sister and two of his friends - was attacked by three young men shortly after midnight.

The teenager fell to the ground and lost consciousness after he was allegedly hit by 20-year-old suspect Walid S.. When one of Niklas' friends tried to help him, Walid S. reportedly kicked Niklas' head. The 17-year-old student fell into a coma and died in hospital a week later.

"As state, church and society, we owe Niklas the promise that something like this will never happen again," Picken said on Saturday.

Also among the mourners were Bonn mayor Ashok Alexander Sridharan and Cologne auxiliary bishop Ansgar Puff.

Bad Godesberg memorial for Niklas P.
A memorial for Niklas P. has been created at a mini-roundabout in Bad Godesberg, close to the site of the attackImage: DW/C. Bleiker

State attorney Robin Fassbender said the accused had been identified as an Italian passport holder. The man had lived in Bonn for some years and was known for previous acts of violence. His parents immigrated to Germany from Morocco.

Following his arrest on Tuesday, the 20-year-old denied involvement in Niklas' death, but reportedly contradicted himself during questioning.

Growing safety concerns

Bad Godesberg has been left shaken by the attack, with hundreds of people having already left flowers, cards and photographs at a mini-roundabout, close to where the assault took place.

Even before Niklas' death, however, many residents had already voiced concerns about the district's safety.

District mayor Simone Stein-Lücke told DW that she's taking her citizens' feelings of fear very seriously.

"I want there to be more streetlights, and we'll also cut back the bushes and greenery to make it a more open space," said Stein-Lücke, who was "stunned and horrified" when police called her with the news of the attack.

Simone Stein-Lücke
Bad Godesberg's Mayor Simone Stein-Lücke said she's taking her citizens' fears very seriouslyImage: DW/C. Bleiker

At the same time, Bad Godesberg's mayor stressed that crimes like burglary and assault have been decreasing in her district for years. Perceptions might still be skewed because "we were living in a bubble for years," Stein-Lücke said, referring to the town's history prior to German reunification in 1990.

While nearby Bonn was the capital of former West Germany, Bad Godesberg was widely known as the "diplomats or mansion district." With ambassadors and high-level government employees living side by side, every other house seemed to be protected by police.

The district's opulent political past is a far cry, however, from the neighborhood's present, with its unsettled mix of wealthy villas, street gangs and Salafists.