Robbery in action, captured by CCTV. / © DNA
Between 1983-1985, the Waldbëlleger Band robbed 22 petrol stations, banks and jewellery stores across Luxembourg. But they were also cold-blooded murderers.
In this weekly series, RTL Today dives into a Luxembourgish crime case. Some are solved, others continue to baffle investigators until this day.
Between January 1983 and October 1985 the Waldbëlleger Band, which got its name from the village of Waldbëlleg, terrorised the nation. Not only did they rob 22 jewellery stores, petrol stations and banks, they also shot a police officer on duty and murdered their own members on a family farm.
Listen to this episode as a podcast:
Formation of gang
The Waldbëlleger Gang was composed of four men: Jos Bernardy, Guy Hertert, Carlo Fett and Nico Reisdorf.
As children, all four boys suffered from bullying, violence and a lack of care and love coming from their guardians. Jos, Guy and Carlo met at a children’s home in Limpertsberg, called Kannerland. While the director at the time, Sister Marie-Albert, said the boys were always treated well, the three men later told RTL that it was a place of abuse and violence.
Nico Reisdorf was not in a children's home but also grew up amid violence at home. He fled his parents' house frequently due to the fights, and voluntarily went to the children’s home to ask if he could stay there. His parents would come pick him up. Nico recalls that, at some point, his father even told him: “I’m going to kill you”.
Nico informed police about his violent father, and after officers showed up at their door, his father cooled off. This was a big moment in Nico’s life, because his parents seemed to respect the officers’ demands, and he was never hurt again. From that day on, Nico wanted to become a police officer.
The four gang members. / © DNA
In their teenage years, Jos, Guy and Nico are constantly in and out of prison. At the age of 16, Jos is the first to be arrested following a robbery of a weekend home in Hoscheid for stealing children's toys. Nico and Guy are also imprisoned for other robberies.
They all land in the penitentiary of the Grund, and the guys recall the brutality and extreme environment of this prison. Established in 1867 in what today has become the nature museum, it was a cramped, overcrowded place that saw imprisonment of political figures by Nazi Germany in the second World War, as well as murderers and other criminals.
It was here that they found each other as a group, where the spirit of criminality took over. Gang rivalry was prominent in the facility. But the three boys shared a similar ideology: Detesting the system and its government.
Once they are released from prison, they’re having a tough time getting their foot on the ground in normal society. This is where the string of robberies really kick off. First petrol stations, then banks. In 1980, Nico Reisdorf and his accomplice rob their first bank - at the age of 21. But it takes another three years for the gang to officially form and begin working together.
Murdered for talking too much
In prison, the group befriend the prison ward, who stupidly boasts about his private gun collection. The gang subsequently break into the ward's private home, steal his guns along with 5,000 bullets. They have 50-60 banks in mind with a getaway plan in place for each heist.
The gang was not made up of amateurs. They were professionals who knew how to outsmart the police. The group would be carrying two sets of clothes during heists, leading investigators on the wrong tracks. They had shoes lying in the getaway car that did not match their real shoe size. Or they would steal personal items from people in cafes and leave them in the vehicle.
Prior to Carlo Fett joining the operations in the summer of 1985, the gang functions pretty smoothly. Fett asked the gang several times whether he could participate in the robberies, but they, up until that point, had not felt comfortable enough with Fett’s actions. In other words, they thought he was a little crazy.
And soon the first cracks begin to appear. At the gang’s peak, 16 members are directly or indirectly involved in the gang’s activities. There is too much involvement and too much chatter, and the gang is worried that the word spreads about who their main members are.
When the gang found out that two accomplices, Elo Steines and his girlfriend Patricia Fettes, two indirect members, also knew too much about the group’s activities, Nick, Guy and Jos killed both.
Furthermore, Jean Chabeau was killed in August 1985 following a robbery at the BIL in Hesperange, which included a hostage taking. The heist had been planned with the gang, but Chabeau took the initiative and executed it without the gang. This ultimately cost him his life.
The last big heist
Everything went south for the gang during an attempted heist on 30 October 1985. The target was an ambitious one: the Central Bank of Luxembourg on Boulevard Royal in Luxembourg City. In fact, the target was so ambitious that nobody expected them to do it.
This would be Carlo Fett’s first operation, but the gang was reluctant to include him. They always believed that the smaller the gang, the easier the operations would be. But after several months of consideration, they decided to give him a go. Nico Reisdorf was not part of the operation, as he was behind bars.
The execution of the heist is a total fiasco. Shortly after 4pm, Fett, Hertert and Bernardy access the bank through the front doors and shatter the glass with a shotgun. Fett fires several shots into the ceiling and points his gun at customers. The gang had been informed that the big vault would open around 4pm, and there is little security inside the bank. Amid the chaos, a staff member manages to set off an alarm. The gang grabs hold of two hostages and flees the bank with all the money they can carry.
Outside the Central Bank of Luxembourg where officer Conrardy is shot. / © DNA
Police officers Vic Leclerc and Patrice Conrardy are the first to arrive at the scene, the moment the gang stumbles out the front door. There is an exchange of gunfire, 33 shots are fired from the gang, 22 from Carlo Fett alone. Fett shoots Conrardy in the head; he dies at the scene. Patrick Conrardy is the first police officer in Luxembourg’s history to die in service.
A hot pursuit is underway, involving numerous police vehicles. The gang attempts to race through dense traffic in the city centre, takes a few turns down to Clausen, along the N1 to Neudorf in the direction of Cents. Near Findel airport they swerve through a half-open gate onto a country lane. The front right tire bursts, most likely shot by police.
A surprised couple walking their dog in the forest unexpectedly find themselves in a gunfight, and both people and their dog are shot at. In an odd sequence of events, after coming to a standstill, the gang manage to steal one of the police vehicles along with their hostages and race off again.
Both hostages are dropped out of the car between Contern and Moutfort. Thanks to a farmer, Norbert Dennewald, the chase comes to an abrupt end: Dennewald was just heading home on his tractor when the gang crashes into him around the bend of the main road.
Escape vehicle comes to a standstill near Findel airport. Hostages are taken. / © DNA
Fett, Hertert amd Bernardy jump out of the car and shoot at Norbert and his dog. Norbert is hit by three bullets, a fourth skims his head, and his dog is shot at once. The three gangsters flee the scene, and decide to continue on foot.
The three make a run for it and head towards a forest behind the house, left without an escape vehicle. Hertert and Bernardy are in decent shape, and continue pressing ahead into the dark woods. But Fett is lagging behind, out of breath, and forced to return to the house, where police await him and put him in handcuffs.
Police later catch Bernardy and Hertert, who are recognised by the bartender of a cafe in Wecker where the duo stopped by for a casual coffee to regain their strength. By that evening, all three are locked up in Strassen prison.
In court, and after
As there was no internet at the time it takes several days for the Luxembourg public to hear that the gang had been captured. After two years of countless robberies and heists, the Waldbëlleger Band had been jailed.
In prison, Bernardy, Hertert and Fett had no contact with one another, yet all said that they had three additional accomplices during the robbery: Their names were Steines and Szabo, as well as Patricia Fettes, Steines’ girlfriend. What police do not know yet at this point is that they’ve all been murdered.
Guy Hertert is the one who steps forward and tells officers what happened. Of course to Bernardy and Fett, Hertert had snitched on them. But it is ultimately thanks to Hertert that police can finally put the puzzle pieces together. The evidence for the missing bodies is an earring, found on the farm in Waldbillig, which belonged to Fett’s family. Patricia’s mother confirmed that it had belonged to her daughter.
In March all four members, along with two other accomplices, were in court. They didn’t blame each other. They seemed to express a sense of pride in what they had accomplished, they felt like professionals.
In May of that year, all four were handed life-long sentences with forced labour. There was no appeal, they all accepted their fate: life-long sentences.
Carlo Fett even managed to escape Schrassig prison, but was caught after 10 days. After 18 years in prison, he was found dead in his prison cell at the age of 42. He had committed suicide.