Middle-aged Czech couple believed to be wanted German robbers

Photo: CTK

A Czech married couple from a sleepy town in south Bohemia have turned out to be a pair of wanted bank robbers in neighbouring Germany. The pair are suspected of having robbed 20 bank outlets over the last 15 years, getting away with a total of around two million euros. On Friday, however, their luck ran out. The man died in a shoot-out with police in the German town of Karlsruhe, while the woman killed herself after seeing her accomplice killed by police bullets.

Photo: CTK
The middle aged couple from Dubenec in south Bohemia could not have been more inconspicuous. Their house on the outskirts of town could do with a new coat of paint, their garden was bare except for a couple of shrubs and fruit trees. The forty and thirty-eight year old man and wife were described by neighbours as quiet, a couple who kept to themselves. Not even the third member of the household – the woman’s twenty-year-old son – had any inkling of the fact that they were the fourth most wanted criminals in neighbouring Germany, where there was a 50 thousand euro reward on their heads.

On Friday they left Dubenec together telling their son they were visiting relatives in Prague. Instead they headed for Karlsruhe in south west Germany for what appears to have been their twenty-first hold-up. The robbery went badly wrong. A clerk set off a silent alarm whilst he was handing over the cash and the nearest police patrol was there within two minutes. In the ensuing shoot-out, the man shot a female officer in the thigh and was gunned down by the police. His wife promptly turned her weapon on herself.

Photo: CTK
It was only later, when the police found their IDs and collected more information that they issued an announcement saying they believed they had caught up with the notorious “gentlemen robbers” suspected of 20 successful hold-ups since 1995 in which they got away with a total of around 2 million euros (2.6 million dollars). The couple obtained the nickname by their surprisingly polite behavior in the banks they robbed, often apologizing for the inconvenience they were causing. In one case, when they forcibly took a man’s car in order to escape, they found his address and later sent him the keys by post.

Police in the Czech Republic have now become involved in the investigation – and are trying to ascertain whether the couple may not have robbed banks in this country as well. Officially, both man and wife have a clean criminal record in the Czech Republic. It appears that since they teamed up neither sought any kind of employment, telling their son that they made a living as bookmakers.

The house of the couple in Dubenec,  photo: CTK
How much they spent of the 2 million euros they are believed to have robbed (the equivalent of 50 million Czech crowns) is not clear. Police psychologists say that either they had someone to launder the money for them – and went back to Germany for more whenever they were short of cash – or that after 20 successful hold-ups they were hooked on the adrenalin and simply could not stop.

The story has inevitably made a splash in the Czech media and the town of Dubenec is still coming to terms with the fact that two of its most inconspicuous inhabitants have suddenly become the new Bonnie and Clyde.