December 20, 2005
Violent, Drunken ‘Bad Santas’ Wreak Havoc Worldwide
By Erik Kirschbaum
BERLIN -- Drunken Santas on a rampage in New Zealand, armed German robbers in Santa disguises, a British St. Nick wanted for flashing, and a Swedish vandal in a Santa outfit are giving the big man in red a bad name this year.Reports of "Bad Santas" breaking the law or otherwise wreaking havoc have been circulating around the world.
Armed with a gun, a man in a Santa outfit held up a furniture store in the German town of Ludwigshafen on Saturday and forced two cashiers to open the safe. He filled his sack with cash, locked the two women in the safe and escaped.
He is still on the loose, but police in Tuebingen were able to nab a bank robber armed with a machine gun in a Santa costume with the aid of an infrared camera and helicopter. They found him hiding in a ditch in a nearby forest.
"The machine gun was fake," a police spokesman said. Dressed in a Santa cap, beard and wearing sun glasses, he was wanted for stealing 500,000 euros in four separate bank robberies.
One Santa was stopped by police for driving 150 kph (90 mph) on a northern German motorway, 50 kph over the speed limit.
"He said he was in a rush because he still had packages to deliver," said a spokesman for the police. They gave Santa a fine and took away his license.
Last week an inebriated half-naked Santa disrupted a Christmas market in Dabringhausen before police intervened.
In New York, one man fed up with the growing commercial aspect of Christmas set up a ghoulish life-sized Santa holding a severed doll's head in front of his house, local media said.
Those incidents paled in comparison to what happened in Auckland on Saturday when 40 drunken Santas rampaged through the city center, stealing from stores and assaulting security guards in protest against Christmas becoming too commercial.
In Britain, police said they were looking for a Santa acting suspiciously -- a flasher who exposed himself to women.
Officers in Swanage on the south coast of England said the flasher had struck a number of times since December 6, and a week later exposed himself whilst wearing a Santa Claus outfit.
A British agency has issued a code of conduct to root out substandard Santas. "Santa is a magical and cuddly man, not a fat, smelly slob," said James Lovell of the Ministry of Fun agency in London. "He must not smell of drink or body odor."
But a foul-mouthed Santa in London nevertheless made children cry by swearing at them recently, local media reported.
In Sweden, one Santa set on fire a 13-metre-high straw ram built by the town fathers by shooting burning arrows into it.
Last Christmas, a shopping center in south Wales installed a webcam dubbed "Santacam" in his grotto to overcome parents' concerns after several high-profile paedophile cases in Britain.
(Additional reporting by Daniel Frykholm in Stockholm, Jeremy Lovell in London and Claudia Parsons in New York)