Europe

Cologne attacks: 'Women were screaming'

  • 7 January 2016
  • From the section Europe
Police outside the main railway station next to Cologne cathedral. 6 January 2016 Image copyright EPA
Image caption There is a strong police presence in the centre of Cologne after the attacks

Police in the German city of Cologne say more than 100 women have made criminal complaints following sexual assaults and robberies carried out by groups of men near the city's main railway station on New Year's Eve. The attackers have been described as of Arab or North African origin. A British 17-year-old girl, whom the BBC is not naming, gave her account of events that night.

I was at Cologne on New Year's Eve with my boyfriend. Upon arriving at 10pm at the train station, I felt afraid the moment I saw the strange behaviour of the people around me.

The main station was full of wobbly teenagers and young adults, of all ages, some possibly below 18, very drunk and unaware of their whereabouts. Some had already passed out on the floor in their own vomit.

Bottles were smashed on the ground and you could feel shards of glass crunching beneath your feet with every step.

Fights had taken place in the station and police were trying to contain them, but the amount of fighting made it difficult for the police to focus on every individual dispute.

We walked towards the exit of the station towards the cathedral, only to be welcomed by a huge crowd blocking the exits.

'Fireworks added to chaos'

We heard a woman screaming and crying somewhere in the midst of this crowd, appearing to be escaping from a foreign man, who was shouting back and pointing his finger at her and chasing her with his accomplices.

Later on, we saw two men corner women at the cathedral and touch them while they were screaming for help and trying to fight back.

The fireworks being ignited on the streets were simply another terrible aspect added on to the chaos that already surrounded us.

You had to be wary of the hundreds of fireworks set off around you by drunk people even while walking normally through the streets, and many of the fireworks soared into the air for a brief second only to explode near other mobs on ground level.

At midnight someone decided to set off a firework right behind us and we felt it explode, a painful experience that could have been worse.

We returned to the station at 2am and due to us being unable to catch a train for a few hours, we had to wait, and the atmosphere had only worsened.

The fights had increased, people who were drunk were throwing their bottles aimlessly and I was afraid that one would be thrown at me so I had to cover my face near the crowds.

I saw a group of older foreign men go up to a group of younger girls (they looked under 18) in the underground train and started pushing them around and touching them, and the girls stumbled near to the train tracks. But thankfully a German man stood up and defended them, so the girls were able to run away.

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