One of two armed bank robbers whose two-day car chase and fatal hostage-taking kept West Germany aghast in 1988 is to be freed. A German court has decided to release Dieter Degowski after nearly 30 years in jail.
The regional court in Arnsberg, North Rhine-Westphalia state, announced Tuesday that it intended to release Dieter Degowski in the coming months on conditional parole after evaluating "positive" rehabilitative prognoses from experts.
Three people – two teenage hostages and a policeman involved in a vehicle accident – died in August 1988 when Degowski and his accomplice Hans-Jürgen Rösner fled an abortive bank robbery and took hostages on a hijacked bus and in cars.
Armed, they kept police at bay during the 54-hour pursuit from the scene of the robbery bid in Gladbeck in the Ruhr region, then north to Bremen, then into the Netherlands, before being intercepted by special police forces on a motorway near Bonn.
One of the hostages, the 18-year-old Silke Bischoff, was shot dead during the interception. A 15-year-old boy had previously been shot dead on the bus hijacked in Bremen.
The gangsters' interactions with journalists during the chase, including interviews given in Cologne through the car's windows while Degowski, seated, held a pistol at Bischoff's throat, resulted in deep controversy over media ethics and policing methods.
At their trial in 1991, Degowski was sentenced to at least 24 years prison, served at a high-security facility in the town of Werl - to the east of Dortmund and near Arnsberg in NRW.
Rösner is still serving time in another penitentiary in Aachen, on Germany's triangular border with Belgium and the Netherlands.
ipj/ng (dpa, AFP)