Topless pirate makes the headlines in biker wars
When the fearsome Baltic pirate Klaus Stortebeker was executed 600 years ago his headless body is said to have walked 12 metres along the 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 corpse passed 11 fellow pirates before the executioner tripped him up.
Little wonder, then, that his skull 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 Hell's Angels for control over northern Germany's drugs trade.
Ralph Wiechmann, the 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 Stortebeker.
Even so, the local press insists 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 skull is an important relic of Hamburg history," Lisa Kosok, the director of the Hamburg Museum, said. "It is priceless."
It disappeared for a few centuries but re-emerged in 1878 during excavations to expand Hamburg harbour. The age of the skull was confirmed in 1999.
The Hamburg Senate failed to keep its promise to Stortebeker and the 11 men were not spared. (© The Times, London)