A year and a half after the acid attack on energy manager Bernhard Gunther in Haan near Dusseldorf, investigators have made a breakthrough and arrested a suspect.
The investigation, which was discontinued in September 2018, had been reopened due to anonymous tips and had led to a 32-year-old man, she said. He was arrested last Friday at a sports event in Cologne, the public prosecutor’s office said. Gunther is the CFO of innogy, an RWE subsidiary that focuses on renewable energies.
A judge at the Wuppertal district court issued an arrest warrant for the suspect, investigators said. He is thus in custody. There had also been searches in several cities against other suspects. The evaluation of the evidence seized thereby continues, the authority communicated. Previously, the "Bild" newspaper had reported on the arrest.
What is behind the acid attack and how many suspects there are, the investigators did not want to reveal for tactical reasons. However, it was not a politically motivated attack, said a spokeswoman for the public prosecutor’s office. He is being investigated for grievous bodily harm.
According to information from the news magazine "Focus", the suspect is a member of a known rocker group. He is said to have acted on behalf of a rival manager from the electricity industry, according to witness testimony in the investigation documents, the magazine writes. The public prosecutor’s office would neither confirm nor deny the report.
According to dpa information, the suspect was arrested at a wrestling tournament in Cologne. This was confirmed to the dpa by the chairman of the club in which the man plays sports.
Innogy’s chief financial officer was at the 4. March 2018 – a Sunday – had been attacked after jogging near his home in Haan near Dusseldorf. Two men threw him to the ground and poured acid on him. Gunther suffered most serious injuries and at times hovered in danger of his life.
He was taken to a special clinic by helicopter. The case made waves nationwide. Gunther was in hospital for several weeks and resumed work soon afterwards.
The public prosecutor’s office in Wuppertal initially investigated the case for attempted murder, but discontinued the extensive investigation after six months without success. Innogy had up to 80.000 euros reward offered for clues to the perpetrators. The company did not want to comment on Thursday on the turn of events in the case.
The manager was in March 2019 – about a year after the attack – at a financial press conference for the first time again appeared publicly. The consequences of the brutal attack were still visible to him. He wore tinted sunglasses and a black band around his forehead. "I am happy to be here", he had said. That was "anything but clear a year ago".
A few days after the attack on Gunther, it had become known that the RWE subsidiary Innogy was to be broken up and parts taken over by its competitor Eon. Gunther had said that Eon’s takeover offer had accelerated his return to work.
This was not the first time that Gunther had been the victim of an attack. A few years earlier, he had also been attacked and beaten up while jogging. So far, there are no indications that the suspects are also responsible for the robbery that took place further back, said the spokeswoman for the public prosecutor’s office.
Gunther had said in an interview four months after the attack that he had a theory, but "I want to keep it to myself. The attack had lasted only a few seconds, the perpetrators had said nothing. He then ran home, washed off as much of the acid as possible and called 911 himself, he said.