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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 May 2005, 17:13 GMT 18:13 UK
German 'grandpas' go on trial
From left  Rudolf Richter, Lothar Ackermann and Wilfried Ackermann
Over $500,000 was recovered from the three
A trio of pensioners known in Germany as the "Grandpa Gang" have gone on trial, accused of stealing more than 1m euros in a string of bank robberies.

Two of the three men, who are aged between 64 to 73, admitted to taking part in the 14 raids, which were carried out between 1988 and 2004.

They are the oldest known robbers in German history, and face up to 15 years in prison if found guilty.

Nobody was hurt during the robberies, although a shot was once fired.

One of the defendants, Wilfried Ackermann, said he had acted out of fear of ending his life poor and in a retirement home, although he stressed that was "not an excuse" for his behaviour.

He had used some of his share in the money to buy a farm.

He said he had already spent 40 years in prison for previous misdemeanours, adding that "you cannot imagine how easy it is to rob a bank when you have already done it twice before."

Compensation

His partner, Rudolf Richter, had been successfully running a motor work shop at the time. "I was an idiot. I didn't need to do it," he told the court.

He said he had become involved as way of seeking some sort of pay back for being falsely imprisoned in 1969 for a bank robbery.

The third alleged accomplice, Lothar Ackermann, reportedly did not give evidence at the trial.

The three were arrested last year in a car park whilst allegedly preparing for another bank robbery.

A verdict in the case is expected in June.



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