( dpa ) The last customers had just left the Lin Yeu Chinese restaurant in the north German town of Sittensen when 14 shots rang out.
Two bullets hit the popular owner, Danny Wing Hong Fan, six hit the cook. Four employees from Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam as well as the owner's wife were each shot once in the head. Another bullet ricocheted through the restaurant.
What at first glance appeared to be a bloodbath perpetrated by the Chinese mafia was an attempt to cover up another crime, according to prosecutor Johannes Kiers, who has charged five men from Vietnam with the brutal murders on the night of February 4, 2007.
News of the slayings spread like wildfire through the town, 30 kilometres south of the port city of Hamburg, after the husband of one of the victims found the seven bodies when he went to collect his wife.
That was shortly after midnight. The last sign of life from the victims was about 90 minutes earlier, according to evidence given by a man who spoke with the owner's wife on the telephone around that time.
The software expert said the conversation was about a faulty piece of computer data equipment the woman gave him to repair. He took it with him when he left the restaurant around 10:20 pm and opened it immediately after he arrived home.
The evidence, given by the man to the court trying the Vietnamese in the nearby town of Stade, revealed a particularly tragic aspect of the crime.
The data contained kiddies' songs in Chinese that the woman wanted to play to her 2-year-old daughter. The child, the sole survivor of the massacre, was found wrapped in a blood-soaked woollen blanket at the side of the bar.
Police and emergency services found six bodies and a man who died later of his wounds. They were scattered about the restaurant and a first floor apartment above the premises.
Photographs of the crime scene shown in court revealed that some of the victims had been tied up before they were killed.
The killers made off with several thousand euros in cash, computer notebooks and mobile telephones, prompting police to believe that robbery was the motive.
They believe the cook was killed when he tried to flee. The others were then shot because they witnessed that killing.
The trial, which began in August 2007 and was halted four months later after a judge took ill, restarted anew in January.
The court is still trying to determine the exact role of the five accused. Two of the Vietnamese were picked up during a routine police traffic check 14 hours after the killings. The other three were arrested in the months that followed.
Police believe three of the men were inside the restaurant while one stood guard outside. The fifth accused is a former waiter who apparently tipped off the others but was not present at the scene.
The prosecution case contains more 40,000 pages of evidence, most of it dealing with minute traces that police experts uncovered during days of painstaking examination of the restaurant.
Other clues were found on the clothes and hands of the accused as well as in their apartments.
The case is expected to be decided on circumstantial evidence because the Vietnamese have maintained a stony silence during the five months of court proceedings so far.
Experts believe that the trial could drag on until the summer, 18 months after the 14 shots were fired and seven people died.