Violent attack on SWR TV team of the ARD in front of Scientologist Gottfried Helnwein's house in the USA

Clearwater, Florida
February 3, 2000
Peter Reichelt

Clearwater, Florida - the Scientology Mecca
Tuesday, February 1, 2000

A dramatic incident occurred while filming an ARD show in REPORT about Scientologist Gottfried Helnwein on February 1, 2000 in front of his villa in Clearwater. Reporters Hans Michael Kassel, Peter Reichelt and their American camera man, Mark Bunker, were violently ambushed by a man who suddenly stormed out of Helnwein's villa, without warning, with a hammer in one hand and a knife-like object in the other. Even though Mark Bunker tried to block the blows, he was still hit repeatedly with the hammer. The hammer attack was filmed by Bunker and Reichelt as much as was possible. As a result of the hammer attack, Mark Bunker suffered from shock and his camera was damaged, but by a miracle, he was unhurt.

Kassel and Reichelt are back in Germany today.

The investigation (case no. 002996) by the Clearwater criminal police is currently going in high gear. So far it has been determined, according to a police statement, that the [unsuccessful] assassin may be one Scientologist Richard Bernard, who, according to Scientology magazine SOURCE Nr. 80, graduated a Scientology drug therapy course. He is said to be a close staff member of Gottfried Helnwein and to have fled back into his house after the attack. There he was found by the Clearwater police a short time later. The Clearwater district attorney is currently deciding whether to press charges against Richard Bernard. Scientology secret police chief Michael Rinder, who appeared in Clearwater shortly after the attack, expressed his regrets about the attack on the German television team in a midday interview with US television NBC channel 8 reporter Mark Douglas. He disputed that the hammer man, Bernard, was a member of the Scientology organization. According to the NBC reporter, Rinder had a lengthy discussion with Helnwein in his house about the incident. Rinder also disputed Helnwein being a member of Scientology's business management, but explicitly confirmed that Gottfried Helnwein was a long-term, active member of the Scientology organization, and was just staying in Clearwater for the purpose of "religious activities."

Up-to-date information on this case can be found on the internet at:

Peter Reichelt, Mannheim
[contact info given]

German Scientology News