Bolt screws up the perfect getaway

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The Independent Online
BERLIN - It was planned like a military operation. But the idea came from a Donald Duck cartoon. Dagobert, the bane of the Berlin bobby's life, has struck again. And but for one protruding bolt, he would today have been a very rich man, writes Adrian Bridge.

The latest escapade of the man who has turned the Berlin police force into a national laughing stock involved 1.4m marks ( pounds 550,000), a home-made battery-powered vehicle and the luring of a police officer to a disused piece of railway track.

The officer, acting under Dagobert's telephoned orders, placed the ransom money in the contraption - and watched helplessly as it sped away at 50kph towards the man anxiously waiting in a concealed siding. In his thoroughness, Dagobert, who takes his name from the German incarnation of Donald Duck's Uncle Scrooge, had cleared and cleaned the track ahead. At last, after several recent failed attempts, he thought he was going to get his hands on the cash - only to see it hurtling down the embankment after his home-made cash-mobile came a cropper on the bolt.

For the pursuing police officer, the recovery of the money was small consolation. Dagobert had long since scarpered. And the torment will almost certainly be repeated.

According to Berlin's beleaguered police, Dagobert, whose demands for money accompany threats to place bombs in super-markets, has now been responsible for some 30 blackmail attempts. His first, in 1988, resulted in him successfully receiving pounds 200,000 after threatening to blow up Berlin's KaDeWe store, the city's equivalent to Harrods. Inspired by his early success, which he has never repeated, Dagobert has since detonated bombs at stores in Hamburg, Hanover and Bremen causing millions of pounds of damage.

Despite numerous attempts to catch him after promising to deliver his ransom, the police have been spectacularly unsuccessful. On one occasion a policeman giving chase is said to have slipped at the point of capture.

On another, after plain-clothes policemen were placed outside all Berlin's card telephones, Dagobert got away again, this time because he broke his usual habits and called from a coin-operated telephone. Twice he is said to have escaped through Berlin's sewer system.

'He has a very good electronic knowledge - and he is very cautious,' said Hartmut Kapp, a spokesman for the Berlin police, after Dagobert's latest venture. 'But his bomb attacks have been very serious. It has only been by chance that no one has ever been hurt.'