A “Black Forest Rambo” at war with modern society, a “sensitive” soul traumatised by previous brushes with the law, or simply a rebel without a cause: as police comb the woodlands of south-west Germany for a sixth day, the motives of an armed 31-year-old at the centre of the large-scale manhunt remain unclear.
The man, named by police as Yves Rausch, has been on the run since last Sunday morning, after holding up four officers and stealing their firearms in what his mother claims was a moment of “panic”.
Police had been called to a forest hut on the outskirts of Oppenau, in Baden-Württemberg after sightings of a “suspicious” figure in combat gear and carrying a bow and arrows, but were caught off guard when the man pulled a gun on them.
A 200-strong police unit has spent the last five days searching the forest, using helicopters, thermal detectors and sniffer dogs to scope out derelict buildings, caves and old bunkers – to no avail.
Rausch, who is registered as having no fixed abode, is believed to have been living in the outdoors for some time. “We assume that the 31-year-old moves confidently through the rough terrain around Oppenau and knows the area very well,” police said police.
Whether Rausch has a political motive or decided to run from police on the spur of the moment remains unclear.
A two-page text calling for a “harmonious life in and within nature” that Rausch reportedly left behind at a local restaurant, has been described in some German media as his “manifesto”.
The newspaper Bild said the contents of the text bore close resemblance to the 35,000 word neo-Luddite essay Industrial Society and Its Future by Theodore Kaczynski, better known as the Unabomber, who tried to spark a revolution in the US with a nationwide bombing campaign between 1978 and 1995.
However, police said on Friday they did not believe Rausch to be the author of the text left behind at the restaurant.
According to Der Spiegel magazine, Rausch was convicted of “incitement of the people” as a 15-year-old, after doctoring a sign on a building to read “Jews away”. In 2010, he was sentenced to a three and a half years in prison for grievous bodily harm, after shooting an acquaintance with a crossbow.
Speaking to local German media, friends and family say the 2010 incident was a tragic accident and that Rausch, who trained as a carpenter during his time in prison, does not pose a threat to the local population.
In an interview with Mittelbadische Presse, his mother said he had “experienced terrible things” during his time in prison and that his pulling a gun on police officers must have been “last-minute panic”, sparked from fear of returning to prison.
Speaking to the local radio station BigFM, a friend identified only as “Sebastian” said Rausch was “a lovely nice guy, polite and accommodating”, adding: “He does not want to go back behind bars. He’s scared that they arrest him again and that’s why he would have reacted this way.”
According to his mother, Rausch used the forest hut where he had the confrontation with police as his home, growing vegetables and carving wooden gnomes he hoped to sell.
“Police should stand down all their forces,” she said. “After one or two days he will come out of the forest of his own accord.”