Cathedral usher caught stealing cash donations

An usher in Cologne’s famous Gothic cathedral is under investigation for stealing money from the collection boxes, possibly over several years.

Cathedral usher caught stealing cash donations
Photo: DPA

“We have started an investigation of theft,” a police spokeswoman said Monday, confirming a report in the regional Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger newspaper.

According to the newspaper, the 62-year-old was caught red-handed by his colleagues on Friday evening. At first, he attempted to get rid of his key to the collection boxes, but then admitted he had taken money.

Police subsequently found €400 in notes in a bag in his locker, plus an undisclosed sum in coins.

He apparently showed considerable cunning in carrying out his crimes, evading suspicion by travelling to Bavaria to have a copy of the collection box keys made. Normally only the cathedral’s sextons have keys.

It remains unclear how much money the man is accused of stealing during his three years as an usher, but considering that the nearly 800-year-old Catholic cathedral is one of Germany’s most popular tourist attractions, with some six million visitors every year (or 20,000 per day), the accumulated loot could be considerable.

The ushers, dressed in red robes, are charged with keeping order and quiet in the busy cathedral.

The man is also said to have some standing in the Cologne community, sitting on the board of one of the traditional societies that organizes the city’s famous annual carnival.

Church authorities declined to comment on the case.

DAPD/The Local/bk

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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.