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Parents of dead Irishman file final appeal against Hamburg police

‘This step is important despite the odds because Oisín was our son and we will never stop loving him or give up on him,” said David Osborn

The parents of an Irishman shot dead in Hamburg have begun a final legal attempt to have the police officer who killed their son brought to trial in Germany.

Oisín Osborn was killed in his home shortly after 10am on May 22nd, 2019 by police responding to an emergency call from his wife. She told an operator her husband was behaving erratically and had a knife.

Minutes later, armed police in riot gear broke into the couple’s semidetached home in a Hamburg suburb and confronted Osborn on the upstairs landing. Fearing he was about to attack them with a knife, an officer shot him six times. The 34-year-old man, who worked in Hamburg as an engineer, died at the scene.

Last year, a Hamburg state prosecutor decided not to prosecute the police officer who fatally shot Osborn.


The prosecutor found the officer had faced an immediate and concrete threat from Osborn, and the response was justifiable as self-defence.

Several aspects of the case remain contested by parents David and Katrina Osborn, in particular whether their son was wielding a knife or a spatula when he was shot. The autopsy revealed no alcohol, drugs or other stimulants in his blood.

HIs parents filed a review request with the Hamburg chief public prosecutor.

After re-examining the case file, in particular photographs of “the extremely narrow” stairway and upper landing, Hamburg’s chief public prosecutor agreed with the decision not to proceed, saying “in the concrete situation ... the accused had no other equally suitable option to end the attack immediately than to make use of their weapon”.

On Tuesday, Katrina and David Osborn took a final step by filing a motion to force legal action by Hamburg authorities. The motion argues that, regardless of the circumstances of the killing, the six shots fired by the police officer constituted an excessive use of force.

Such motions in Germany have strict conditionality and, to be successful, require the applicant to make a compelling case for why action is required with a reasonable prospect of a prosecution under German law.

Though such cases are rarely successful, the Osborn family say they are filing the motion to exhaust every legal option in Germany before moving on to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

“This step is important despite the odds because Oisín was our son and we will never stop loving him or give up on him,” said David Osborn. “It’s also important to deal with people in a humane and just way; people who are simply ill are treated like criminals, though no crime has been committed.”

Some 10 days before the fatal shooting, Oisín had become a father. In the days after a difficult birth, his wife said he began behaving erratically, with mood swings and signs of paranoia.

On the morning of the shooting, she woke to find her husband, naked apart from a loincloth, bringing kitchen objects into their bedroom, including steak knives. She did not witness the shooting outside the bedroom door but heard what she thought were fireworks.

David and Katrina Osborn argue their son was having a severe anxiety attack and that the confrontational police response escalated the situation.

Nearly four years on, they describe the German justice system response to their family tragedy as “heartless and arrogant”.

“Above all there seems a determination to prove themselves right,” said David Osborn, “or even more to assume rightness without the need for proof”.

Derek Scally

Derek Scally

Derek Scally is an Irish Times journalist based in Berlin