Guard accused of helping with prison breakout

Police have arrested a prison guard on suspicion he helped in the dramatic escape of two violent inmates from the maximum-security Aachen jail, authorities announced Saturday, as the hunt for the two men continued.

Guard accused of helping with prison breakout
Heckhoff (left) and Michalski. Photo: DPA

The 40-year-old guard is suspected of having helped the men get through locked areas and providing them with loaded prison service weapons as well as ammunition, according to statement by the state chancellery of North Rhine-Westphalia.

Investigators were alerted to the guard’s involvement when they watched video recordings of the breakout, the statement said.

Peter Paul Michalski, 46, and Michael Heckhoff, 50, were still on the run late Saturday after escaping Thursday from a prison at Aachen, southwest of Düsseldorf, where they were serving sentences for murder and attempted murder.

They attacked a prison warder and a porter before fleeing in a taxi for Cologne, where they hijacked a car driven by a 19-year-old female student.

Running out of fuel late Friday, they abandoned the car and its driver and disappeared, police said.

Police had set up roadblocks Saturday around the western city of Essen in the hunt for two jail-breakers, who were said to be armed and dangerous.

The guard under suspicion was in custody as investigations continued, the North-Rhine Westphalia Justice Ministry announced.

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Damaged freighter blocks traffic at drought-hit Rhine

A stranded cargo ship caused traffic to be halted Wednesday at the Rhine river in western Germany after suffering a technical fault, authorities said, at a time when water transport was already ailing from a drought.

Damaged freighter blocks traffic at drought-hit Rhine

The vessel is stuck at St. Goar and Oberwesel, in between the cities of Mainz and Koblenz, water police said, adding that they were expecting to clear the stricken ship within the day.

The machine damage came as water levels in the Rhine had dropped to critical points at several locations, including at nearby Kaub — a known bottleneck for shipping where the river runs narrow and shallow.

The gauge at Kaub stood at 34 cm (13 inches) on Wednesday, well below the 40-cm reference point.

While vessels are still able to navigate at low water levels, they are forced to reduce their loads to avoid the risk of running aground.

About four percent of freight is transported on waterways in Germany, including on the Rhine, which originates in Switzerland and runs through several countries including France and Germany before flowing into the sea in the Netherlands.

READ ALSO: How the Rhine’s low water levels are impacting Germany

Transport on the Rhine has gained significance in recent months because among cargo moved on the river is coal, now all the more necessary as Germany seeks to wean itself off Russian gas.

Germany’s biggest companies have already warned that major disruptions to river traffic could deal another blow to an economy already beset by logistical difficulties.

The 2018 drought, which saw the benchmark depth of the Rhine in Kaub drop to 25 cm in October, shrank German GDP by 0.2 percent that year, according to Deutsche Bank Research.