This is one of those oddball German stories that is fairly complex, serious, and takes a minute to tell.
Back in the middle of August of 1988.....in Gladbeck, Germany....these two guys show up at a local bank and attempt to rob it. Things go wrong....the cops arrive....hostages in the bank are taken. The two guys negotiate to some degree....getting roughly $150,000 in cash and a car.
So begins this long tragic mess.
The boys end up driving through that day....followed by the cops....with a hostage or two in their car, and drove on through the night.
Day two arrives, and the guys pull over, and now take an entire bus, and thirty-two new hostages. The cops? I don't think they really expected this to get any worse....but it did.
At this point, the media gets involved, and in some curious and crazy way.....they actually come up to the bus, with the guys waving pistols, and do dozens of interviews. The cops? They don't stop the media.
This news reporter business starts to become a circus. Day two goes through, and into the evening....they now start the bus moving toward the Dutch border. They stop at some gas station along the way, and cops try a delay tactic....which results in one hostage....a teenage kid....being shot.
The bus eventually crosses the Dutch border into day three. The Dutch cops are a bit more difficult on the guys, requiring some folks to be released before any talks take place. The guys want a car.....they eventually get a car. Then strangely enough.....they elect to cross the border back into Germany.
You might start to wonder at this point...if there was any real plan 'b'. There wasn't. And by this point in time.....both guys were going for three days without any real sleep.
So on the 4th day of this situation.....the guys are holding two young ladies in the car as hostage, and are moving toward Frankfurt. It's hard to imagine what the intent is, and I doubt if they even knew.
Cops finally arrange for the car to be stopped, and a shoot-out occurs. One of the young ladies is killed. One of the two guys is killed. The media circus? For days, they told, retold, and re-retold the epic story that they covered. Today, most of the public talks more about the news media circus, than the event itself.
Why does this come up this month.....over twenty years later? Well....they couldn't sentence the remaining guy to life in prison, by German standards. He's coming up for release this year.
Frankly, the cops are pretty insistent that they want this rarely-used German rule of permanent prison to be used. You see....normally, you can't get a sentence beyond twenty-odd years. However, the German court system years ago inserted a little rule into the system. Certain people are beyond help, and should never be allowed to walk freely for the rest of their lives. Few Germans fall into this rule.....for obvious reasons. And it's awful tough to get a court to issue this rule.
Yet the cops are going full-board.....retelling this story, and trying to use the media to get attention and focus political power on the court. This one guy.....as far as they are concerned.....should never walk out of any German prison. He is considered a threat to society.
I suspect a defense attorney is working hard to downplay this, and offer up various reasons to show that the guy has recovered and is just not going to be a threat to anyone. I would imagine some news journalists are trying hard to be the first in line to interview him as he is released.
Germans over the age of forty....all remember this episode....because it played out on TV for several days, and the newspapers kept it on page one for several weeks.
So, if you hear of some mention of Gladbeck in the German news....it relates to this robbery, the hostages, and a couple of murders. And it relates to a guy who probably ought to be held for the rest of his life in some prison.