Hell’s Angels may hold key to pirate hero Störtebeker’s missing skull
When the fearsome Baltic pirate Klaus Störtebeker was executed 600 years ago his headless body is said to have walked 12m (40ft) along the length of Hamburg quayside.
He had struck a deal with the elders of the port: any of his 70 men that he managed to pass in his post-decapitation walk should be spared. The quivering corpse passed 11 fellow pirates before the executioner put out a foot and tripped him up.
Little wonder, then, that the skull of Störtebeker has fascinated Germans for so long — and that its theft from a Hamburg museum last month has kept police busy.
They interrogated members of the often reckless FC St Pauli fan club and dug deep into the city’s Goth scene before concentrating on a new possibility: that the pirate’s skull has become a trophy in the turf wars between rival biker gangs. On Saturday night a skull was placed outside the offices of the Hamburger Morgenpost with “No Tacos” written on its crown. “Tacos” is slang for the biker group Bandidos, which is challenging the Hell’s Angels for control over northern Germany’s lucrative drugs trade.
Ralph Wiechmann, head of archaeology at the Hamburg Museum, was called in to examine the skull and ruled that it belonged to a more recent corpse than that of Störtebeker. The pirate’s skull has a gaping hole on its right side, where it was nailed to a wooden stake outside the harbour gate to deter people from piracy. The latest skull bore axe wounds but no nail hole.
Even so, the local press continues to insist that a Hell’s Angels chapter is the likely culprit. The Morgenpost cites an “insider from the biker scene” as saying that the skull was offered to the Hell’s Angels free of charge by an unnamed thief. “The piratical skull and crossbones is certainly part of the insignia of aggressive motorcycle gangs,” a police investigator said. “Störtebeker is a hero for some of these people.”
Störtebeker is regarded as a Robin Hood or even a Che Guevara figure by many northern Germans, because he robbed the rich merchant ships of the Hanseatic League. However, there is little evidence of him redistributing his booty to the poor. Indeed, legend has it that after his execution Hamburg senators found that the masts of his ships had cores of gold and silver.
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