A memorial service in honour of the 15 victims of a teenage gunman who went on a shooting rampage at his former school in the town of Winnenden, Germany, was held on Saturday in the presence of Chancellor Angela Merkel.
AFP - Tens of thousands of people converged on the grieving German town of Winnenden Saturday for a memorial service for the 15 victims of a shooting spree by a 17-year-old.
Police said as many as 100,000 people were expected to attend the event at which President Horst Koehler was due to give an address during an ecumenical service at the end of the morning in one of the town's churches, in the presence of Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Meanwhile families of the victims appealed in an open letter for tighter gun control laws and a ban on violent video games of the kind which the teenage killer Tim Kretschmer regularly played.
He is believed to have spent two hours playing the shooting video game "Far Cry 2" the evening before going on the rampage with his father's weapon at his former school on March 11, killing nine pupils, three teachers and three passers-by before turning the gun on himself.
The entrance to Albertville secondary school was a carpet of flowers and wreaths and candles on Saturday.
Students at the school all wore the same black tee-shirt bearing the Martin Luther King slogan "Ich habe einen Traum" (I have a dream).
Many shops had their shutters down with signs saying "We are in mourning with you".
All flags over the region were flying at half mast on Saturday and bells were tolled at 0945 GMT.
Around 20 giant screens had been erected in the open air to transmit the church service, including in a stadium able to seat up to 30,000 people. The Catholic church where it is being held has only room for 900.
As well as the president and chancellor, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Education Minister Annette Schavan were expected to attend the service for the victims, who were buried in private funerals over the past week.
In their open letter addressed to Merkel and Koehler, the families of five of the victims said: "Despite our pain and anger, we can't just do nothing. We want to make sure there is not another Winnenden."
They called for teenagers to be denied access to guns, for violent videos to be banned and violence on television to be restricted by the introduction of quotas taking into account the hours when children are likely to be viewing.
They also wanted killers not to be identified so as to stop them being glorified. "This is crucial to prevent copycat killings," they said in the letter published by the local newspaper, Winnender Zeitung.
The Albertville school, which has remained shut since the killings, was due to reopen its doors to its 600 students on Monday.
Date created : 2009-03-21