BERLIN (AP) — An American man has been arrested in the death of a U.S. tourist and an assault on another near Neuschwanstein castle in southern Germany after he allegedly pushed the two women down a steep slope, authorities said Thursday.
The incident near the popular tourist attraction happened on Wednesday afternoon near the Marienbruecke, a bridge over a gorge close to the castle that offers a famous view of Neuschwanstein.
The 30-year-old man met the two female tourists, ages 21 and 22, on a hiking path and lured them onto a trail that leads to a viewpoint, police said in a statement.
He then “physically attacked” the younger woman, police said. When her companion tried to intervene, he choked her and pushed her down a steep slope.
The assailant then appears to have attempted to sexually assault the 21-year-old before pushing her down the slope as well. She fell nearly 50 meters (165 feet), ending up close to her friend.
A mountain rescue team reached both women. The 22-year-old was “responsive” and taken to a hospital, police said; a helicopter carried the 21-year-old to a different hospital with serious injuries, and she died there overnight.
The suspect left the scene but was arrested quickly nearby. Bystander video posted online showed police leading away a handcuffed man in a T-shirt, jeans and a baseball cap.
Witness Eric Abneri, a recent business graduate from the University of Pittsburgh who shot the video, said the man appeared to have scratches across his face.
“He did not say a single word. He didn’t open his mouth; he didn’t mumble,” Abneri told The Associated Press. “He just walked with the police and that was it.”
Abneri said he and friends arrived at the scenic overlook as a helicopter arrived and they saw rescuers lower themselves down to the victims.
“I’m honestly absolutely stunned someone is still alive from this. It is like falling from the top of an absolute cliff,” he said.
Abneri described it as “a very, very difficult rescue because of those cliffs and because the helicopter came mere feet above the tree line at the top of the hill.”
“They did an unbelievable job,” he said.
Police said the man they arrested was American and described him as also a tourist; prosecutors said the women were fellow U.S. citizens. The 22-year-old remained hospitalized Thursday, according to prosecutors.
Authorities didn’t identify either the suspect or the victims or give any further details.
Police said a judge in nearby Kempten on Thursday ordered the suspect held pending a potential indictment — a process that can take months — and he was taken to jail. He is under investigation on suspicion of murder, attempted murder and a sexual offense.
Police said they and prosecutors were focusing on trying to reconstruct exactly what happened and called for any witnesses to come forward.
Neuschwanstein, located in southern Bavaria close to Austria’s border, is one of Germany’s most popular tourist attractions.
It is the most famous of the castles built by King Ludwig II of Bavaria in the 19th century. Construction started in 1869 but was never completed. Ludwig died in 1886.
GEIR MOULSON and FRANK JORDANS reported by Berlin.