the scrapbook of diving history


2011 English 3 bolt helmet is ‘made in Poland’(?)

On 27th January 2009 a burglary took place in the German town Lorsch where 38 or so diving helmets were stolen from a private collection. When the owner of the collection discovered the theft on the morning of the 28th he not only called the police but also contacted a (notorious) diving equipment dealer from Holland to inform him about the theft, the German collector had purchased several of his helmets from this dealer and asked him for some advice. When the dutch dealer was called by the collector, he was in a meeting at a parking near the German Autobahn in Hamburg. The man whom he actual met with would later be accused for stealing the helmets from the German collector. The collection was stolen in the south of Germany, they met in the North of Germany the very morning after the theft. The Dutch dealer promised to the collector that he would alert the collectors society about the theft and drove back to Holland.

The German police started an investigation and published photographs of some of the stolen helmets on the internet:


Three days after the theft, a collector of diving helmets from Belgium, Jaap Stenger received a phone call from the son of the German diving equipment dealer from the meeting in Hamburg mentioned here above. This German dealer offered the Belgian collector Jaap Stenger 12 diving helmets over the phone and being interested Jaap agreed to meet with him the next day. In the past Jaap had owed a diving company and had bought some reproduction ‘antiques’ from this German dealer, knowing it were reproductions which he gave away as presents to business relations. At these earlier occasions he had asked the German dealer for genuine helmets for his collection. At this new meeting, 3 days after the theft was discovered, Jaap bought 9 of the 12 helmets on offer and paid 2500 euro each. They drove to a bank nearby where Jaap could get only 6000 euro cash, for the remaining money he had to write a check. During the waiting at the bank the German dealer asked Jaap if he would be interested in purchasing a Galeazzi ADS. Jaap said he would be interested in it, on which the German dealer replied that he could get one but only at the condition that the (notorious) Dutch dealer was not to be informed about the deal. After the German dealer had left with 6000 euro cash and a check, Jaap had a feeling after this strange request that something was wrong with the deal. And especially because he was asked not to do so, he then contacted the (notorious) dealer here in Holland to ask if he knew about this lot of diving helmets which were for sale: Jaap had also purchased several helmets from him in the past. It was not before that moment that he was told that he had probably bought part of the collection of helmets that were stolen three days earlier in Germany. Unfortunately Jaap had not been informed of the stolen collection by the Dutch dealer. Jaap immediately agreed to a meeting with the collector from Germany to make sure that the helmets were part of his stolen collection. On day four following the theft, the German collector and his wife met in Belgium to identify the helmets that he had bought. They were in no doubt that the purchased helmets were all were part of the stolen German collection. Jaap first had the check blocked which he had written to the German dealer the day before, luckily a friday, the check appeared not to be cashed yet. And even though he had invested 6000 euro cash in them, Jaap handed over all the helmets, so nine of the 38 helmets were now back with their rightful, former owner.

Within a few weeks both German dealers, father and the son were arrested for the selling of stolen diving helmets. Their case will appear in the court of Freising, Germany on oct 24 2011, more then 2 years after the burglary ... We keep you informed ...

( Oct. 24 2011: The case has not appeared in the court of Freising: it has been postponed for unknown reason. We keep you informed ... )

However not all of the helmets were ever recovered: 16 are still missing ... Early in June 2011 the German father who had been arrested for the selling of stolen helmets called several Dutch diving companies and asked if there was any interest in some antique diving helmets that he had for sale. An owner of a diving company who is a friend of mine was also called, and since the boss knew that one of his men collected diving helmets, he passed on the seller's telephone number. An appointment was made and the German seller showed up with a single diving helmet. The helmet had a Siebe Gorman company badge on it but a Heinke telephone connection. My friend had an odd feeling about the seller and the helmet so he was reluctant to buy it, but instead took some pictures of the helmet. He told the seller he would call him when he was decided, but the seller then asked how much he was willing to pay him for the helmet there and then. The price asked was 2400 euro, but my friend offered him 1500 euro ... much to his surprise, the seller accepted this low offer!

Above: Photos of the helmet my friend bought for 1500 euro from the German dealer. The helmet shown in the above images are of the fake helmet.

When my friend returned home he had a unsettled feeling about his purchase and so he started looking for photos of identical helmets from his database. Some images downloaded from the website were from the ‘Polizei in Hessen’, and he then realized that he may have bought a helmet which was stolen in 2009 from the Germany collection. He called me to asked for some advice. I asked him if the sellers name was Rxxxxxx? which he then confirmed. I told him it was highly likely that he had bought a helmet from the stolen collection so I asked to be sent some photos of his helmet. Later that day he sent me some images of the helmet and I soon discovered that the it was a near identical helmet to the stolen one, but not exactly the same ... the helmet he had bought was in fact a reproduction(!)

Above: left the genuine helmet which had been stolen from the collector in Germany. Photo: Polizei Hessen. Right the fake helmet, photo David L.Dekker

Above: The collection in Germany before the theft in 2009. Photo Bernd Wagner. The English 3-bolt helmet is center-right.

So the good news was that my friend had not bought a stolen helmet but the bad news was that it was a fake! I informed the German collector about the fake helmet which apparently had been copied from his stolen helmet by the thieves, and informed some of my contacts about the existence of the fake helmet. However since it was the only one that had appeared on the market it was not known if there were anymore out there. That was until two weeks ago when on 1st August 2011 I received an email from another collector friend in Germany. He had been contacted by a Polish woman (she spoke excellent German) who told him the following story: 10 years ago her son had been paid for some work he had done in exchange for an antique divers helmet. Her son had recently died and now she needed the money, so she had decided to sell his antique helmet ... was my friend interested in it? Yes he was, therefore he asked to be sent some photos of the helmet. As soon as he received the pictures he sent them on to me in an email asking if 3500 euro was a good price for the helmet. This helmet was identical to the fake English 3-bolt helmet sold to the other friend here in Holland for 1500 euro just a month before.

Above: Photographs that my Germany friend received from the ‘Polish woman’. Unfortunately none of the images show the complete helmet, but it is clearly identical to the other fake helmet sold in Holland only a month earlier.

The story the Polish woman told my German friend made me think back at the stories I was spun by the kind Polish grandfather back in 2009, when I bought that fake Swedish helmet and German lamp. At least the German collector was sensible to have first asked for my advice and luckily I had the relevant information to hand.

So now it is clear that it is not just one 3-bolt helmet which has been copied. It is more likely that the German father and son who stole the helmets from the German collection in the first place had sent at least one of the helmets to the workshop in Poland where they have reproduced a number of them. The original helmet would have been disassembled and moulds made taken from the various original parts. I am afraid we may expect more of these to show up on the market and perhaps other forgery helmets from the stolen collection as well ...

When you are offered a helmet for sale such as the one above then be vigilant ... genuine helmets of this type exist with company badges both from Heinke and from Siebe, Gorman & Co Ltd. The two fake helmets that have recently shown up had Siebe Gorman badges, but could just as easily had any other style of badge. The 3-bolt Siebe, Gorman/ Heinke helmets are very rare and few in number, so the chance of being offered a genuine one is highly unlikely.

Update February 25 2013:

Due to the fact that an important witness from Holland has kept calling off his appearance only 1 or 2 days before the case would be trailed in Freising there still has not been a trial(!) All people involved are waiting since 4 years now, and in the mean while the ‘important witness from Holland’ rather uses the fact that he is needed in this case to put pressure on the other people involved then that he is willing to actually solve this matter. To anyone who really know this dutch dealer this is clearly a sign that he has ‘more things to hide’. In the mean while the helmets which were reproduced from the original stolen one do keep showing up ‘everywhere’ ( Germany, Holland, Denmark, England, Australia, Austria etc. ) leaving a sad trace through the collectors society ...

Update November 3 2014:

The case has been to court! The first 2 attempts to get the case to court were both obstructed by the Dutch dealer who simply called to court 1 or 2 days before the case was scheduled, to explain that he was not able to appear as a witness due to various reasons. When the case was scheduled for the third time the German police had decided to interrogate the Dutch dealer here in the Netherlands, which had happened some 5 months before the case appeared in court on September 23 13.30 CET.

At the court the German collector who’s helmets were stolen was ‘assisted’ by 3 witnesses. The Belgian collector Jaap Stenger who had come to Germany for the third time (the first 2 times in vain because the Dutch dealer called off his cooperation shortly before) was strangely enough immediately asked to leave the room, and given a document to claim his expenses and thanked for his willingness to come to Freising, Germany. What the other two witnesses explained to the judge I do not know, but one of them did defend the notorious Dutch dealer in a discussion with Jaap Stenger outside the courtroom. After Jaap had told him that he had recently discovered that some antiques which he bought from the notorious Dutch dealer in the past were in fact ‘not old’ ... (identified by the Historical Diving Society Denmark as a reproduction) Whereupon this other witness claimed that ‘the Dutch dealer probably had not known that this helmet was a reproduction’ ... When I later heard about this conversation from Jaap I explained to him that this ‘other witness’ himself offered me a fake Russian VKS57 helmet at the Historical Diving Society meeting in Neustadt, Germany last summer. I do believe however that this ‘other witness’ did not know that he offered me a fake helmet at that moment, but I do know that these helmets were sold in quantities by the notorious Dutch dealer (making it quite possible that he actually purchased this helmet from him) I explained him about the helmet being a reproduction.

The (female) German judge came to the following conclusion: the father and son who had sold most of the stolen helmets, cannot be kept responsible for stealing them, because apparently there is no evidence that they did. They probably claimed to have purchased the helmets from ‘some Polaks’ because they have only been convicted for ‘fencing of stolen property’. They don’t go to prison. A part of the collection of helmets remains disappeared. They have been convicted to pay the costs of the court case only ... Franz Rothbrust, president of the Historical Diving Society of Germany was informed by the ‘other witness‘ that ‘a Polak was convicted‘ which is not true because only the German dealer family were convicted in this case.

Another interesting thing to mention is that less then 2 weeks before this case came to court I received a phone call from a German person identifying himself with the name of the (later) convicted German dealer family. They have a particular German name and obviously I was alerted in less then a second, but much to my surprise he appeared to be the same guy who had been in my house earlier this year. Only, back then he had told me a different name(!) Back then I was called by the same german speaking man, I believe he introduced himself as ‘Marko’ (but I am not 100% sure about that) He told me back then that he was a starting collector of diving helmets and and that he had just bought some equipment from an antiques dealer in Rotterdam. He said that later that week he would drive to Rotterdam and asked me if it was ok when he stopped by to meet and see what helmets I have for sale. Selling diving helmets is what I do for a living so he was very welcome, and a few days later a German van stopped in front of our house and 2 men got out. The younger guy introduced himself as (I believe) Marko, the other man was older and he introduced himself as ‘his uncle’. I showed them the helmets I had available and ‘Marko’ showed interest in a French Piel 3 bolt helmet I had for sale. The price for the helmet (3700 euro) was higher then what they had cash with them and since they ‘really liked that French helmet’ they asked me if I was interested in trading it against a helmet from their collection, and they showed me a small photo album. All helmets in their album (half a dozen) were clearly fakes as sold by the notorious dealer from Holland and the bad dealers from Germany, so I told them frankly that I was sorry but all helmets at their photographs were fakes. They were not shocked or even surprised but simply asked me ‘how I could tell?’ ... (I replied that I had seen many genuine examples of such helmets) Then they asked me if I would be interested in a swap against the stuff they had bought in Rotterdam. We walked to their car, ‘uncle’ replied to my question what they do for a living that they sell sausages at markets and events, and in the car they appeared to have a brand new Russian helmet, suit and boots. The price they said they had paid in Rotterdam was almost twice the price I sell such equipment for, so there was no deal to be done. About an hour after they had arrived they drove off.

Shortly after, I wanted to take our dog for a walk and when I left the house I noticed that the key from our front door (which should have stuck in the lock inside) was missing. After checking with wife and kids I got a bad feeling about the germans, I did not even know their names or where exactly they had came from: ‘maybe they took the key’? I drove to town and bought a new door lock.

About a week later ‘Marko’ called me again. I had not forgotten about the missing key but had no evidence neither that they had taken it and we just continued to discuss the deal with french helmet which he seemed to want so badly. He made me an offer which was to low, I would loose money on the deal when I accepted it and that was the end of it. But a few days later he called me again, saying he really wanted the helmet and with the new offer he made I would earn a few hundred euro and I accepted the offer. That weekend I had to move my daughter to a new place up north here in Holland and after that I met with ‘Marko’ at a parking in the north east of Holland, closer to Germany.

The surprise came when this ‘Marko’ introduced himself last month with the full name of the notorious German dealer, not once but twice during our phone conversation, as if it was important to him that now I knew who had been visiting my house. The next day I got an email from Jaap Stenger, the Belgian collector, who told me that the next week the court case would finally be held in Freising.

The reason why ‘Marko’ called me was to tell me that he had been diagnosed with cancer. He was seriously ill and had to sell all his stuff and he wanted to sell the French helmet back to me. I remained calm, even though I started to realize that these friendly ‘sausage dealers from Bremen’ (that is how they introduced themselves) seemed to be in fact (part of) the notorious German dealer family, at the time held responsible for the theft of 38 Diving Helmets(...) I asked him what he wanted for the helmet and even though initially he wanted ‘his money back’ he later said he would accept 300 euro less as what he paid. I proposed to him that when he would send me photographs of the helmet ‘as is’ then I could list it on the deepseaclassifieds.com website and put it for sale for him, when a client would show up then I would contact him (after all: the French helmet was genuine, and I would not mind to have his email address) He promised to send me photographs of the helmet which however, were never received.

The end of the story? ....

The German collector who’s collection was stolen has found back several of his helmets but not all of them. Even though I asked him at several occasions, right after the theft as well as when I visited him at his place since, to provide me with photo’s and serial numbers of the helmets which are still missing (so I can publish them on this website) I have never received any information. So Bernd, maybe you read this article: I would like to show the collectors society which of your helmets are still missing, please send me (us) the information needed to identify them. Thanks.

The Belgian collector Jaap Stenger is still hoping for a refund of the money he paid for the (stolen) helmets. He paid 2500 euro’s per helmet. There were ‘cheaper and rarer helmets’ with the lot so the price was reasonable and therefor he could have insisted on keeping the helmets but instead he handed them back. In return the German collector promised to pay him back after the case had been taken to court stating that he was afraid that when he would pay Jaap immediately he might not show up as a witness ... First the court case was delayed by the Dutch dealer for almost 5 years. Five months before it finally came to court the Dutch dealer decided it was a wise move to get the entire German HDS involved by inviting them to visit the German collector to see the remains of his collection (the part which had not been taken by the thieves, the helmets which were retrieved and the helmets which were given back by Jaap Stenger) It was added as a special excursion to the annual German HDS meeting. The collector had stated to me at an earlier occasion that he insisted staying on good terms with the Dutch dealer because to him this seemed the only way of getting him to stop blocking the court case. I do not know if at the time of this excursion the Dutch dealer had already been interrogated by the German police or, when he had been interrogated at that time, if he had told the collector about it ...

Myself I expect to receive, sooner or later, the next email from some new come collector who bought himself a clever made reproduction of one of the helmets which were stolen in Germany ... and never found back ...

Update June 14 2015:

The sad facts are that fake helmets are still sold (see HERE) and Jaap Stenger has never received the compensation which he was promised by the German collector for handing back the helmets and his honesty and willingness to help solving the crime ...

June 14 2015. This article was rewritten, updated and completed