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Oisín Osborn ‘wasn’t himself that day’ but why did German police shoot him dead?

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The last trace of Martin Osborn’s third birthday party is a small, half-eaten cake sitting on the kitchen table, topped with a “3” candle.

Martin is in kindergarten and, before his mother Nicole collects him, she is hurrying to make coffee.

We’re in a south Hamburg suburb that ticks all the boxes: large semidetached red-brick houses, quiet streets lined with apple blossom trees and abandoned bobby cars and scooters scattered in driveways.

The leftovers from Oisín and Nicole’s son Martin’s third birthday party. Oisín died 10 days after Martin was born.
The leftovers from Oisín and Nicole’s son Martin’s third birthday party. Oisín died 10 days after Martin was born.

Nicole is a 34-year-old single mother – and a widow. Three years ago, on May 22th, 2019, her husband Oisín was shot dead, 10 days after he became a father.

Three years on, Nicole still doesn’t know why her emergency call ended as it did. Armed police officers in protective gear burst into their home, raced up the stairs and shot the 34-year-old man dead on the landing. “We live in a peaceful area, not a warzone, so I simply don’t understand why this happened,” says Nicole, a woman with long blonde hair and a strong, mournful gaze. “May 22nd is with me every day of the year.”

After a lonely period of mourning in the pandemic, the school teacher says she is beginning to accept her new life with her son. She fears it could all fall apart again, though, but doesn’t know when. Three years have passed, but the state prosecutor in Hamburg, Germany’s second-largest city, is still investigating, leaving Nicole and Oisín’s family in limbo.

Couch-surfing

Nicole laughs as she tells the story of how she met Oisín in 2008 – two language and travels nerds with online profiles. “It was a Couch-surfing platform,” she says, eyes shining.

Intrigued by his profile, she arranged to meet him and Nicole found herself completely at ease with this chatty, multilingual man: English father, Irish mother, raised in Spain and France, a promising career in engineering. “He was extremely open, friendly, a person you would like to be with, he had so many traditions and could see life as a French person, Spanish, British and Irish, of course,” says Nicole, recalling the Irish songs he sang for her.

“It felt like we were on the same wave, like two pieces of a puzzle. He said that everything just felt easy with me, that we could go down the road hand-in-hand.”

Oisín Osborn suffered mood swings, from euphoric to agitated, following the birth of his son.
Oisín Osborn suffered mood swings, from euphoric to agitated, following the birth of his son.

A quiet wedding came in 2013 and, in 2019, their first baby. After a difficult birth, baby Martin spent a week in intensive care with an infection before going home with his exhausted parents.

Through a fog of fatigue, Nicole remembers Oisín was increasingly agitated, but put it down to a painful allergic reaction he had suffered to hospital hand disinfectant. As the days at home passed, the happy father-to-be who had painted a big rainbow on the nursery wall – as his father had done for him – was gone. Instead, another Oisín paced the house, covered up mirrors and, Nicole remembers, promised to protect her and Martin “from everything and everyone, even evil spirits”.

On the morning of May 22nd, something snapped.

The last time she saw her husband alive, half-dressed and deeply distressed, he was wearing a saucepan on his head. ‘He said it was for protection,’ remembers Nicole

Nicole woke up to find Oisín in a frantic state, running up and down the stairs. He had brought up kitchen appliances to the bedroom; laid on the bed she saw every knife in the house, including steak knives.

That triggered a protective instinct in the young mother. She dialled 112 and the operator, hearing “knife”, put her through to police.

Sirens

Minutes later, shortly after 10am, Nicole remembers hearing sirens and voices outside. The last time she saw her husband alive, half-dressed and deeply distressed, he was wearing a saucepan on his head. “He said it was for protection,” remembers Nicole, scratching beneath her nose and slowing down. “I said I loved him and he stepped out of the room. Then I heard what I thought were fireworks.”

Oisín with his mother, Katrina. She and Oisín’s father, David, had been worried about their son in the days leading up to his death.
Oisín with his mother, Katrina. She and Oisín’s father, David, had been worried about their son in the days leading up to his death.

What happened next is the subject of an ongoing investigation by Hamburg’s state prosecutor and cannot be reported in detail. After a large number of police officers in full riot gear surrounded the Osborn house, Nicole thinks they gained entry through the patio door at the rear of the house, and moved straight ahead to the ground floor hall and staircase to the right of the front door.

A police statement at the time said officers were confronted on the stairs with an man carrying “what appeared to be a knife” – a matter of close investigation now – and opened fire. Nicole says she heard at least four bangs, possibly six.

She didn’t realise he was dead until later, outside in a police car, when an officer referred to Oisín in the past tense

We leave the kitchen for the hallway, where Nicole shows me the narrow, enclosed stairwell to the first floor. Even in the daytime it is a gloomy space; to get upstairs you need to make a right turn – twice.

Upstairs, she points out the spot on the ground where she saw Oisín lying, tucked up in a baby position. Escorted past, she saw no blood and didn’t realise he was dead until later, outside in a police car, when an officer referred to Oisín in the past tense.

Mood swings

David and Katrina Osborn had been worried about their son since Martin’s birth because of his mood swings, from euphoric to agitated. When David tried to call Oisín on May 22nd, an unfamiliar voice – a family friend – answered the phone.

“He said, ‘I am sorry, your son is dead,’ that’s how I heard,” says David Osborn, on a phone call with his wife from France, where they live.

The couple hurried to Hamburg and were met by an Irish embassy official and a Garda sergeant based in the Hague, before being questioned separately by the police.

As weeks turned into months, they grew frustrated by what they viewed as stonewalling from Hamburg and hired a German criminal lawyer.

David Osborn, Oisín’s father, with all the letters from the Hamburg prosecutor in the last three years. There is still no resolution in sight.
David Osborn, Oisín’s father, with all the letters from the Hamburg prosecutor in the last three years. There is still no resolution in sight.

Like Nicole, Katrina and David Osborn are anxious to remember Oisín as the bright, capable man he was – fluent in five languages, an inventive engineer who was going places in his career at Airbus and excited about being a father. He had no criminal record, no history of mental illness or domestic assault. Yet, one call from his anxious wife ended with him dead in their home.

The autopsy revealed no alcohol, drugs or other stimulants in his blood. Apart from that, his mother Katrina says, they have few answers, just guesses. “It’s not uncommon for people under extreme pressure to have an anxiety attack,” says Katrina, who was born in Abbeyleix, but grew up in Castletroy, Co Limerick.

Three years on, Oisín’s parents want to know why police shot their son multiple times, and why no non-fatal means were tried to control him. “We have no explanation for why the Hamburg police acted like something out of a US swat team,” says David.

Complex investigation

A Hamburg police spokesman told The Irish Times he was unable to comment on the ongoing investigation. A spokeswoman for the state prosecutor said that the case was in its final stages after a complex investigation which had required time. “In such cases, this is not usual and is the basis of a correct processing of a case,” the spokeswoman added.

Nicole Osborn’s lawyer, Claudia Krüger, says the case has been complicated, requiring reports from various experts. “But even I am unhappy with the pace of the investigation and would have expected it to proceed much quicker,” she said.

In his high-ceilinged Berlin office, Elvis Jochmann – a criminal lawyer engaged by David and Katrina Osborne – says that three years is an unusually long time for a criminal investigation in Germany. Every few months he contacts the Hamburg prosecutor for an update, but gets an identical letter in response.

The Osborn family and their lawyers knows the odds are stacked against them ever finding out what happened to Oisín. In Germany, 54.8 per cent of criminal investigations do not proceed to trial, according to a study from 2015. If the main suspect is a police officer, that number rises to 97.7 per cent. Even if a case against a police officer goes to trial, only a tiny number end in prosecution.

For Claudia Krüger, these numbers reflect the nature of police work, in particular how often officers find themselves in dangerous situations where they have to make quick decisions and act in self-defence. Like anyone else, she says, police officers are presumed innocent unless proven otherwise. But fellow lawyer Elvis Jochmann says the numbers also reflect a system that favours police officers.

“The problem is that they know how a case is investigated and also what is expected when they testify,” said Mr Jochmann. “They know how to frame their actions as self-defence, regardless.”

Unlike other countries, German federal states have no separate bodies for investigating complaints against police officers

He is not alone in his concern. A major study of German police violence, to be presented in September, estimates that, for every criminal complaint against a German police officer for violent behaviour, five more go unreported.

Even if a complaint is made, German criminologist Tobias Singelnstein, the study’s lead researcher, says “structural flaws” in the criminal justice system make it very unlikely the complaint will go any further.

Complaints

Unlike other countries, German federal states have no separate bodies for investigating complaints against police officers. Instead, the criminal police investigate such cases themselves, even questioning colleagues who are suspects, before the case is passed to the state prosecutor.

Prof Singelnstein, professor for criminal law at Frankfurt’s Goethe University, says this creates a problem in practice because police are part of the criminal justice system and state prosecutors work with them every day and depend on them. “For state prosecutors, police officers are not normal suspects,” he said, “and, perhaps unconsciously, they take a different approach with them”.

Sometimes in such cases, it falls to German courts to correct prosecutors. In 2018, a Berlin police officer was investigated for shooting dead an Iraqi man he claimed had threatened him with a knife. The prosecutor moved to drop the case, the dead man’s family took legal action and a Berlin court forced the case to be reopened, saying “the circumstances that led to the use of gun, and what could have justified it, have not been adequately explained”.

Hamburg police say they have just three cases of police using their service weapons in the last five years: 2017, 2019 and 2021. Hamburg’s state prosecutor says it has examined “numerous” complaints alleging police violence in the past decade and “isolated” cases where people died, but adds: “Statistics about this are not kept at the state prosecutor’s office.”

‘Bright new life’

In her Hamburg home, Nicole Osborn heads down the stairs, past photographs on the wall of her – alone – with her growing son. When Martin sees pictures of Oisín now, he doesn’t understand that this is the father he had for just 10 days.

“It’s painful for me to see how Martin runs to his friends’ fathers, hangs out of them and calls them ‘papa’,” she says.

In the living room she points out the new dining table and chairs they bought, the new wooden floor Oisín laid, and the green and yellow walls they painted together. It was part of a “bright new life” they planned, she says, before it was snuffed out in a hail of bullets.

Nicole says she has run through in her head every angle – even the police officers’ perspective called to a unfamiliar house with minimal information. Packing her bag to collect her son from the kindergarten, Nicole says quietly: “Oisín wasn’t himself that day. But is it normal, in a peaceful society, to use methods like that?”

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Verdion starts on logistics development in Nettetal (DE)

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Verdion has started the development of a new €30m logistics facility on the outskirts of Nettetal near the German-Dutch border and Rhine-Ruhr metropolitan region. The speculative project is part of the value-add strategy of the Verdion European Logistics Fund (VELF) 1, which invests in last-mile logistics and value-add assets in northern and central Europe.

 

On completion in Q2 2023, the new facility at Herrenpfad-Sud 40 will offer 21,560m² of Grade A logistics space in up to four units, with 18,575m² of warehousing with 20 loading bays as well as 950m² of office and mezzanine space.

 

Verdion is targeting a DGNB Gold sustainability certificate for the highly energy-efficient building, which will not be using fossil fuels as a primary energy source and provides charging points for electric vehicles and cycle parking for a carbon-neutral commute. Additionally, the roof and electrical infrastructure will be prepared for solar energy generation. The site itself is located in the established Herrenpfad Sud industrial estate in Nettetal between Monchengladbach and Venlo, directly on the German-Dutch border and within striking distance of Germany’s largest conurbation, the Rhine-Ruhr metropolitan region.

 

Florian Stobe, Head of Investment – Germany at Verdion, said: “Within the framework of Verdion’s sustainability strategy, we determined that rather than modernising and extending the existing building as originally planned, a full-scale redevelopment would better serve this market and meet the fund’s ESG standards. We are already seeing a great deal of interest in the new space, based on its strategic location and the strength of demand for last-mile distribution space for customers in the Rhine-Ruhr metropolitan region. With this strategy in Nettetal and other assets in the VELF 1 fund coming forward, we are creating value at the same time as providing new space in undersupplied markets.”

 

 

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LaSalle and Accumulata to develop Munich’s first hybrid timber office building (GB)

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LaSalle Investment Management, acting in collaboration with ACCUMULATA Real Estate Group, will develop Munich’s first hybrid timber office building. The building is being constructed on behalf of Encore+, LaSalle’s flagship pan-European fund. Situated on Elsenheimerstrasse in the city’s Westend district, the office building will have a floor area of approximately 16,000m². With dismantling of the existing building on site already underway and construction due to begin in the third quarter of this year, the project is scheduled for completion during the first quarter of 2024. Lettings are already being marketed in collaboration with CBRE, the lead estate agent.

 

Designed by the leading Munich-based architectural firm Oliv Architekten, the asset will provide flexible, multifunctional spaces including a ground-floor café/bistro and landscaped roof terrace, as well as various wellness amenities, including a yoga studio and a relaxation lounge. Tenants will also enjoy bicycle parking, electric charging points and a smart underground car parking facility. Furthermore, the building will provide customisable office units and creative collaboration spaces, ensuring the asset is well-positioned for the future.

 

In terms of its environmental credentials, the project meets the highest sustainability standards across all areas, including construction, materials and operations. Having already received a DGNB “Platinum” precertification, the asset will be constructed using concrete reclaimed from the existing building currently situated at this location. All materials used in construction will be documented in a material passport, showing where and how the various components were sourced and installed, ensuring they can be repurposed at the end of their service life. These measures are projected to reduce embodied carbon by up to 25%. Embodied carbon will be low at 366kg CO2e/m², significantly below the RICS Building Carbon Database (offices) average benchmark of 1291kg CO2e/m².

 

The use of timber in the building’s load-bearing structure will ensure that approximately 1,100 tonnes of carbon will remain stored in the building fabric, rather than emitted into the atmosphere. During the course of the asset’s lifespan, emissions associated with the building’s operation will be reduced by 65% in comparison to a typical office building through the integration of a photovoltaic system, efficient heating, cooling and ventilation systems and the use of a ground water heat pump. The building will also harvest and store rainwater, supplying irrigation systems for the benefit of surrounding green areas.

 

David Ironside, Fund Manager of Encore+ at LaSalle Investment Management, commented: “This is an industry-leading and best-in-class project. The first of its kind in Munich, its design in accordance with circular economy principles and resource-conserving operation will serve as a benchmark in sustainable real estate. Located in one of the most sought-after office submarkets in Munich, the property will be extremely well placed to meet the ever-evolving demands of future tenants around sustainability, quality, amenities and infrastructure while providing attractive long-term returns for our investors.”

 

Markus Diegelmann, Managing Partner at ACCUMULATA Real Estate Group, added: “The start of demolition marks an exciting first step in the development of what will be one of the most sustainable office projects in Munich. At ACCUMULATA, we aim to promote the concepts of urban mining and the circular economy within the construction sector and this project is firmly aligned with this objective. By utilising ultra-high-quality and recyclable materials, we are creating an office building that can meet occupiers’ shifting requirements, both in terms of flexible working environments and sustainability standards.”

 

Georg Illichmann, Managing Director at CBRE GmbH, said: “As the first hybrid timber office building to be constructed in Munich, the project achieves all the modern-day requirements tenants demand from office buildings: easy accessibility to public transport, sustainability credentials and working spaces that promote communication, creativity and innovation. The building’s use of timber, unique to the Munich office market, will not only support the building’s sustainability credentials but also the wellbeing of occupiers. At CBRE, we are proud to be leading on the marketing of this unique asset and be involved in ground-breaking project in the German real estate market as the lead estate agent.”

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Cain provides €99.7m for London office development (GB)

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Cain International has agreed an €99.7m (£86m) development loan with BauMont Real Estate Capital  and YardNine for the development of a 95,000ft² highly sustainable, best in class office-scheme at 100 Fetter Lane in central London known as ‘Edenica’. The asset was acquired by BauMont in January 2021 with development partner, YardNine. Located in City Mid-town, in close proximity to Farringdon, the development benefits from easy access to the newly opened Elizabeth Line via Farringdon, as well as City Thameslink and Chancery Lane stations, with a diverse range of cultural, leisure, retail and educational amenities nearby.

 

The asset received planning consent in September 2021 for the delivery of a new 12-storey development, with over 8,000ft² of roof gardens, a new pedestrian route and garden square at ground level, alongside more than 230 cycle spaces. In addition to the light filled workspace the scheme will include a new café and F&B uses.

 

The building, situated at 100 Fetter Lane, has been named ‘Edenica’, a reference to the extensive outdoor spaces which form part of the scheme and adjoin it. The project is targeting the highest environmental standards of BREEAM Outstanding, WiredScore, SmartScore and WELL certifications.  Sustainability, technology and wellbeing are extensively incorporated into the design. This includes voluminous office space with clear heights of over 3 metres, openable windows to enable mixed-mode ventilation, extensive planted terraces to encourage biodiversity and provide significant external breakout spaces, facilities to encourage active modes of travel, and high-performance 100% electric building designed with the Waterman Group to ensure the building uses as little energy as possible and achieves Net Zero carbon emissions in use. Construction work has commenced on site and the scheme is due for completion in Summer 2024. 

 

Tanja Yerolemou-Ennsgraber, Senior Vice President – Real Estate Finance at Cain International, said: “We are excited to partner with an experienced sponsor and developer duo, joining their journey to deliver a best-in class office scheme. The project embraces the needs and desires of the future occupier, being mindful about their experience and bringing it to the fore. BauMont and YardNine have successfully unlocked a fantastic development opportunity and we are pleased to bring our construction financing expertise to the table and see Edenica unfold.” 

 

Damien Pasini, Director at BauMont Real Estate Capital said: “Following the recepit of planning permission last year, securing development financing is another significant milestone for 100 Fetter Lane. We look forward to working with Cain and YardNine to deliver a highly sustainable and innovative workplace in one of Central London’s most vibrant submarkets.”

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