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Berlin: How a Sad Story Became a Scandal

A year and a half ago, on January 29th, 2018, Fabien Martini wanted to park her white Renault Clio close to Potsdamer Platz, in the heart of Berlin. Near the intersection of Grunerstrasse and Jüdenstraße, the beautiful 21-year-old lady chose to leave the vehicle on the central dividing strip, next to countless other cars. It was the last decision she would ever take.

She had gotten her driver’s license at age 18 and was an experienced driver. What she did not expect was the police car which came out of a tunnel at a speed of 134 km/h (83 mph) and raced towards her. Seconds later, at about 1:00 p.m., the patrol car crashed into the driver’s side of Martini’s Renault.

Dead on Scene

During the collision, the police car pushed the driver’s door into Fabien Martini. She was injured badly and died on the scene. A young woman’s life was suddenly over. Her plans and dreams, along with everything else in her life, were gone.

Four and a half hours after the accident, police officers and two members of their crisis response team showed up at Martini’s parents’ home in Berlin’s Reinickendorf quarter in order to bring them the terrible news. Needless to say, the Martinis were heartbroken, and still are.

Up to this point, the sad story about a car crash in Berlin is one of many. Last year, 45 people died on the streets of Berlin. Statistically speaking there was one street death every eight days. Fabien Martini was one of them. But this tragedy turned out to be different.

Involuntary Manslaughter

A year and a half later, meaning today, there is no closure. Fabien’s parents recently told the ‘Berliner Kurier’ daily, nobody could take away their sadness, but they had not gotten any help since it had happened. There was no justice either. “A civil servant killed our daughter”, her father told the publication, “but the state does not do anything.”

After the accident, Berlin prosecutors started an investigation procedure against the officer who was driving the patrol car. He is suspected of involuntary manslaughter. But, according to the Martini family’s lawyer, the investigation revealed little.

A police car crashes into the car of a young lady who dies on the scene of the accident. The authorities seem to be working slowly and the parents do not hear or get anything from the state. If the story had ended here, it would have been very unfortunate, and probably forgotten soon. But there is more.

Intoxicated Cop

The cop at the wheel was intoxicated. Furthermore, it looks like investigators were not interested in reading the alleged culprit’s patient chart. At Berlin’s Charité hospital, its director Prof. Dr. med. Ulrich Frei told the ‘Tagesspiegel’ daily in January, nobody had requested the file for a year.

Frei was quoted saying, staffers at the hospital had been criticized for “possibly refusing” to give away the file. “The opposite is the case”, he stated. “For one year we have waited for someone to come along with a judicial decision.” Of course, documents of this kind will not be given to investigators without a judge’s signature.

After the deadly accident, the officer who drove the police car was taken to the Charité, where he was tested for alcohol in his blood. The result: He had a BAC of almost 0.11 percent. No driver should ever have an alcohol concentration of this magnitude in his or her blood. The fact that police officers on duty should be completely sober goes without saying.

Illegal Weapons

There are several open questions: Why was the cop intoxicated? Why didn’t anyone seem to care until recently? Why wasn’t the officer’s alcohol level checked on site, right after the accident? At that moment it was probably even higher than later, at the clinic.

This sad story will not be over until all of the relevant information is on the table and until there is justice. So far it looks like this deadly accident could have been avoided. Had the police officer been sober and alert, he should have been able to avoid the crash.

The trial against the officer has not started yet. Still he was forced to appear in front of a Berlin court some six weeks ago, for owning illegal weapons, after his colleagues found those in his apartment. He had two brass knuckles, which are forbidden in Germany. The officer used them to take obscure photos of himself, which he posted on social media.

Legal Tricks?

This kind of activity of his, taking those weird photos to impress people on Facebook, or to shock them, might not have legal ramifications. But it raises even more questions about this individual. Should someone who wants to impress people by posting selfies with forbidden weapons be a cop at all?

Yet another unconventional aspect is the fact that the case of the forbidden weapon is far less important than the one of killing that young lady on duty. In the German legal system, the big case will usually include any smaller ones connected to the suspect. Dealing with the brass knuckles case separately might have been a strategy the prosecution is following, observers believe.

At the end of June, the officers was sentenced to a fine of 1700 Euro (1886 Dollars or 1552 Pounds Sterling). Regarding the trial about the deadly accident under the influence of alcohol, there is still no date. Fabien Martini’s parents are disappointed. They will never come to terms with the fact that nothing will bring her loved daughter back. But they finally want closure in a legal sense.

This is the updated version of an article first published in early 2019.