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German police nab most wanted criminal

world Updated: May 30, 2009 00:40 IST
Erik Kirschbaum
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Germany's most wanted criminal has been captured outside a pub in Hamburg's redlight district ending a nine-year manhunt, police said on Friday.

Thomas Wolf, 56, a talented linguist who eluded police with multiple aliases, told investigators after his arrest late on Thursday that he expected them to nab him sooner or later.

Wolf, who had been on the run since 2000 after fleeing while serving a prison sentence for bank robbery, has remained silent about the whereabouts of a 1.8 million euros ($2.52 million) ransom he extorted from a kidnapping this year, police said.

He also stole hundreds of thousands of euros in bank robberies across northern Europe while on the run, they said.
"After the very long manhunt was over, some of the officers raised a glass of champagne in a little toast," a Hamburg police spokesman told ARD television. "It all ended very fast. He appeared to be baffled and had no chance of resisting arrest."

Federal police investigator Joern Blicke said Wolf had been under observation in Hamburg for several days after authorities got a tip-off.

He narrowly evaded capture several times and his mugshot and various aliases appeared regularly in German media over the years as police admitted he had slipped through the net once more.

"He's happy the story is over," Blicke said. "He said he expected police to catch him sooner or later anyhow."
Wolf fled jail in 2000 while on a brief Christmas leave and then robbed a bank. His other crimes while on the run included kidnapping a banker's wife, resulting in the 1.8 million euro ransom payment.

She was released unharmed.

Wolf has been in an out of jails since he was a teenager and had escaped twice from prison previously.
Police said Wolf also tried to rob banks in the Netherlands and Belgium using fake bombs. He used many false identities and spoke Dutch and English flawlessly, mastering several English dialects, police said.