Denmark: Custody row grandfather kills lawyer

A 67-year-old grandfather opened fire with a sawn-off shotgun in a Copenhagen courthouse yesterday killing a lawyer and seriously wounding the father of his three-year-old grandchild.

Police and a forensics officers at the scene of the incident in the centre of Copenhagen. Picture: AP
Police and a forensics officers at the scene of the incident in the centre of Copenhagen. Picture: AP

The 57-year-old lawyer was representing a 31-year-old who was in a custody battle with the gunman’s daughter, police and court officials said.

The gunman was arrested nearby and police seized the weapon used in the shooting, according to official reports.

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“It is a family tragedy, not an attack on the court or the legal system,” said Soeren Axelsen, head of the Copenhagen City Court.

The shooting happened in the bailiff’s court, which is part of the city court, close to Copenhagen’s Town Hall Square. The incident was caught on film by closed circuit cameras at the court. An eyewitness said he heard at least five shots being fired at the time of the shooting.

Initial reports suggested one of the victims was shot inside the building and another outside, but Mr Axelsen later said both were shot inside the bailiff’s court.

Eyewitnesses have told how they saw the child’s father stagger about inside the building before he went outside, where he collapsed.

He was taken to a hospital with serious wounds, but his condition wasn’t life-threatening, police said.

The lawyer, who has not been named, was pronounced dead at the scene shortly after the shooting which took place just before 10am local time. A preliminary hearing was taking place in the court when the firing broke out, officials said, but they refused to give any details on the case that had been called.

Police cordoned off several streets around the building for most of the day, which is next to City Hall, setting for the political thriller Borgen, while forensic teams collected evidence.

The Ekstra Bladet tabloid posted a photo on its website showing a police officer aiming a weapon at a person on his knees, saying it showed the suspect being arrested.

Mr Axelsen said he believed it was the first shooting ever at the Copenhagen City Court, which was established in 1771.

Danmarks Radio reported that the weapon seized was a sawn-off shotgun.

The radio station was also among the first to identify the alleged gunman as the child’s grandfather.

“The shooting seems to have happened in a meeting room, and then you can see people fleeing left and right,” Michael Villemoes Larsen, head of administration at the city court, told the radio station after he had watched surveillance footage.

A witness in an adjacent building described chaotic scenes at the court as workers fled from the gunshots.

“They jumped out of a window and hid behind cars. They were obviously very frightened,” he told the radio station, adding that he later saw one of the victims lying on the ground surrounded by paramedics and police.

“There was blood everywhere … but the victim seemed to be alive.”

Security is normally lax in Danish courts except for court sessions related to terrorism, criminal gangs and high-security cases where everyone but lawyers and judges must walk through metal detectors.

Mr Axelsen said counsellors had been brought to the court to help staff who may have been traumatised by the attack.