A Lithuanian family travelling in their campervan along the Autobahn A8 through Bavaria got a very unpleasant surprise when they stopped overnight in one of the roadside parking areas. They were literally gassed as they slept and robbed while they were all unconscious. This happened in July 2015. This week there was a similar occurrence at the same spot and below I review some other incidents of campers being robbed and gassed in Germany.
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The Lithuanian family were travelling through Germany on their way to Austria in a hired campervan. Their party consisted of a 65 year old man, his 55 year old wife, their son of 32 and his girlfriend, 28. They arrived at the autobahn service station at Hofoldinger Forst in the evening and went to bed in their camper at around 11:00 p.m. It was a very warm night and they left the small window open above the door of the driver cabin for ventilation.
At about 5:00 in the morning one of them awoke and noticed that the passenger door had been broken into and all their travel bags had been searched. Two mobile phones, a tablet computer and 500 Euros in cash were missing so they informed the police. When they first awoke the travellers suffered from bad headaches, sore throats, dizziness and facial swellings. The police took urine samples for a toxicological tests because they suspected the family had been drugged.
Experts considered that it would be very difficult to totally fill a camper with gas – the volume needed would be of the order of 33 kilograms – quite a lot of gas bottles. Technically this would be quite a challenge. The German motoring agency ADAC suggested at the time that perhaps someone quietly broke into the vehicle and then sprayed anaesthetic directly into the faces of the sleepers (speculation on their part).
At the same location on the evening of Saturday 29th August 2015 two more travellers, this time a German couple from Essen, were also robbed while they slept in their Campervan. Once again police suspect an anaesthetic was introduced into the vehicle after they couple went to bed (23:30). They woke 6 hours later feeling sick and found that several hundred euros, jewellery and a mobile phone were missing. On the driver’s door, just below the lock, they noticed a small hole.
Police presume that the anaesthetics used are highly volatile and therefore would be difficult to detect either in the air of the camper or in the blood of the victims following the event.
Having two almost identical events occurring in the same spot in Bavaria I decided to do a quick check on other parts of Germany and found that there were reports of similar occurrences this year on the autobahns around Hamburg (A24) and Berlin (A10 ring). In the last couple of months in the Northern region of Germany there were about 12 reported thefts from campervans (involving phones, computers and money). In three of these cases the police are checking whether an anaesthetic gas might have been used – the victims all complained of being sick on the mornings following the thefts. As in Bavaria traces of the actual gas used could not be identified.
Three suspicious characters were observed by police checking out several parked caravans and campervans at the service station at Fretzdorf (Osprignitz-Ruppin). As they approached three of the vehicles these suspicious characters were arrested and in their apartment the police found mobile phones and some equipment which might have been involved in a robbery. These investigations are ongoing.
The police are warning travellers not to camp in roadside or isolated parking areas and to pay for proper camping sites. Some experts have also recommended the installation of gas alarms. For German speaking visitors to ChrisDuggleby.com you can find original articles on these crimes using the links here, here and here.
Chris Duggleby is a risk management author and music producer. In addition to producing a text book on risk management he is the author of the RiskTuition site which can be found using the link here. His most recent e-baroque music videos can be sampled using the YouTube link here.