What's the smartest raid in history

Hunt for department store blackmailer "Dagobert"

Status: 06/13/2017 10:20 a.m. | archive

In June 1992 a strange advertisement appeared in the "Hamburger Abendblatt": "Uncle Dagobert greets his nephews." What sounds like a joke by a staunch Walt Disney fan is a message posted by the Karstadt department store group. The agreed text signals to a blackmailer that the company is willing to pay. The blackmailer is asking for a million marks, otherwise he will set off bombs in the department stores. In fact, the following night he had a pipe bomb explode in the porcelain department of a Karstadt store in Hamburg to emphasize the demand.

Is the blackmailer an old friend?

The police suspect the blackmailer to be an old friend. In 1988 the Berlin department store KaDeWe was extorted for half a million marks. Back then, too, an explosive device exploded in the department store at night; The ransom was thrown by police officers on the instructions of the extortionist from a moving S-Bahn. Four years later the same handwriting: This time, too, the money is to be thrown from a moving train.

Handover of money with technical finesse

In the case of Karstadt extortion in 1992, the perpetrator refined the handover plan. So that he can determine the location of the drop himself, he installs a magnetic metal bracket on a train on the Berlin - Rostock route. The device is to be released from the wagon via remote control. After a failed attempt, the magnet releases as planned on the second attempt. The blackmailer escapes on a bicycle with his wallet. But there are only a few bills in the pocket - the rest is filled with scraps of paper.

Cat and Mouse game

The perpetrator is not satisfied with the small amount and insists on his demand. In the following two years, "Dagobert" - as the perpetrator is now called by the press based on the first newspaper advertisement - played a cat-and-mouse game with the police. With around 30 attempted money transfers, Dagobert managed to escape again and again. He detonates four more bombs in Karstadt branches in northern Germany, plus one in Berlin. As if by a miracle, only two people are slightly injured in the detonations: Although "Dagobert" detonates most of the explosives at night, in two cases his bombs explode in elevators while customers and employees are in the department stores.

Sympathy for "Dagobert"

Nevertheless, the public sympathizes with the resourceful department store blackmailer. The eponymous comic stimulates people's imagination. The sophistication of his technical constructions, with which the blackmailer wants to get the money, are strongly reminiscent of the inventor Daniel Düsentrieb. The media are also willing to take up the comic vocabulary: "Düsentriebäter Dagobert" or "Dagoberts Gully trick - gluck, gluck, weg" are the headlines of the tabloids.

Comic-like surrender attempts and police breakdowns

Time and again, "Dagobert" surprises the police with extremely creative money handovers. So he placed a sand box on a manhole cover in Berlin. From below he opens the hiding place and escapes once again with a bag. Inside: a few banknotes and a lot of worthless paper. In addition, there are wanted maneuvers by the law enforcement officers. When attempting to gain access, the blackmailer escapes because the policeman in pursuit slips just as he tries to grab the fugitive by the collar.

Spectacular: mini-cart derailed with 1.4 million marks

"Dagobert" wants to get the ransom with a self-made mini-cart. But the rail vehicle derails shortly before its destination.

A spectacular handover attempt in January 1994 caused a sensation: "Dagobert" wanted to have the money transported to a hiding place with a self-made mini-cart. For this he has prepared a disused track in Berlin. Thanks to trip wires and fireworks, the mini-vehicle can successfully outrun the officers on the approximately one-kilometer route. But 30 meters from the target, the cart tips over the rails. Particularly annoying for "Dagobert": In this case, the 1.4 million marks that have now been demanded are actually in their pocket.

Arno Funke chooses the pseudonym "Dagobert" at random

One of the longest and most costly blackmail cases in German criminal history ended on April 22nd, 1994. For a good two years, "Dagobert" fooled the police, fascinated the public with his tricks and cost a company a lot of nerves. In a Berlin phone booth, the police finally catch the blackmailer Arno Funke. He's glad it's over. And contrary to expectations, he is not a Walt Disney fan, because his pseudonym was chosen purely by chance: In search of a striking sentence with which Karstadt should signal its willingness to pay, he looked at a bag with the Dagobert Duck printed on it in July 1992. Figure liked.

Brain damage and a high IQ

Arno Funke, here on the left, is sentenced to nine years in prison. He was released early in August 2000.

The motive of the unemployed and depressed Arno Funke is money. He had thought of suicide and wanted to turn his life around with the blackmail, said Funke in court. Seven years and nine months imprisonment for aggravated extortion and 2.5 million euros in damages was the verdict on January 17, 1995. During his imprisonment, Funke was found to have had brain damage from solvents that he inhaled while working as an art painter in a car workshop Has. This damage and the resulting depression had a mitigating effect on the revision of the case in 1996 - otherwise it would have been more than nine years imprisonment for the then 46-year-old.

Going creative

Funke, who is attested in a report with a high intelligence quotient, undergoes successful therapy while in custody. At the same time he wrote an autobiography and began drawing caricatures for the satirical magazine "Eulenspiegel". The trained sign and light advertising maker has lived as a graphic designer and book author in Berlin since his dismissal in August 2000. Funke repeatedly seeks the public's attention, appears in talk and television shows.

Chronicle of an unusual criminal case

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Hamburg Journal | 03/30/2014 | 19:30 o'clock