The case of the Hinterkaifeck murders is one that chills me to my core. The thought of someone living in your home without your knowledge is one of the scariest things I can think of. There are a surprising number of cases involving unwanted guests out there. People living in the crawl spaces or attics of random homes is nothing new. However, this crime takes it to a whole new level.
The small German farm known as the Hinterkaifeck farmstead was a relatively secluded and quiet place. It was located by the woods outside of Gröbern, a small town an hour from Munich. The house on the farmstead was the home to widowed Viktoria Gabriel (35), her children Cäzilia (7) and Josef (2), and her elderly parents Andreas and Cäzilia Gruber.
While the family was known for keeping to themselves, the neighbors started to worry about them around April 1, 1922. Young Cäzilia had missed school, and the family hadn’t been to church. Their mail was also starting to stack up at the post office. The neighbor, Lorenz Schlittenbaur, decided to investigate with a search party.
They searched the barn and found four battered bodies that were partially hidden by hay. The search of the house revealed Josef and the maid, Maria Baumgartner, who had just started that day.
Dr. Johann Baptist Aumüller conducted the autopsies. The older Cäzilia was strangled and had about seven different blows to her head. Her husband’s face was mangled. Viktoria had a crushed skull and was hit with a blunt object. The young Cäzilia had a shattered jaw and wounds on her face and neck.
Viktoria, Andreas, and the older Cäzilia died almost instantly. However, evidence showed the young Cäzilia was alive for several hours following her attack.
Josef and the maid, Maria, were found in the house. Fortunately, their deaths were quick, with blows to the head. All the animals in the barn were unharmed. In fact, they had all been fed and taken care of. The killer or killers had also stayed in the home, eating meals and lighting fires for warmth.
Haunted by the Living
At first, homeless, traveling workers were suspected. This theory was thrown out when large amounts of money were found in the house. The former maid had quit just before the murders because she believed the house was haunted. She had felt as though she was being watched and even heard sounds coming from the attic. Andreas did not believe what she had said.
However, this was not the only odd occurrence in the house. Andreas himself had spoken to the neighbors just days before he was murdered. He had discovered a newspaper in the home he did not buy, nor did anyone else that he knew of. He had also seen footsteps in the snow leading to his home from the forest.
Keys had recently gone missing as well. Andreas had told the neighbors all of this. It sounds as though the killer or killers had been staying in the home long before the murders occurred.
Another suspect was the neighbor, Lorenz Schlittenbauer. He had led the search party but also had a relationship with Viktoria previously. It was even said that Josef was his child. However, Lorenz ended up marrying someone else and had a baby with her.
The baby had died just weeks before the murders.
It was theorized that Lorenz went over to the home after refusing to pay child support for Josef. He might have been so distraught over the death of his baby that he went over to the farm and killed the family. It was also stated that he acted unusually at the crime scene when he discovered it.
The police extensively questioned him, but they couldn’t place him at the scene of the crime. He was eventually ruled out.
It was evident that whoever killed the family knew their way around the farm. However, it was no one from the household. So who was it?
The murders are unsolved to this day. The family was buried on the land but without their heads. The skills were examined in Munich for further evidence. They were eventually lost in the second world war.
The case was reopened in 2007 by the Fürstenfeldbruck Police Academy. While they weren’t able to conclusively solve the case, they did come up with a theory. The suspect has passed away since the crime, and the theory remains a secret today out of respect for the suspect’s family members.
Who do you think committed the crime? Maybe it was the former maid? Maybe Viktoria’s first husband didn’t really die in the war? We will probably never know for sure, but let me know what you think!
Vatomsky, S. (2017, August 31). The Chilling Story of the Hinterkaifeck Killings, Germany’s Most Famous Unsolved Crime. Retrieved March 28, 2020, from https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/502044/chilling-story-hinterkaifeck-killings-germanys-most-famous-unsolved-crime
Bradley, A. (2019, January 27). Hinterkaifeck Murders: Murder On The Farm. Retrieved March 28, 2020, from https://www.unsolvedcasebook.com/hinterkaifeck-murders/
Serena, K. (2017, November 13). The Gruesome Tale Of The Unsolved Hinterkaifeck Murders. Retrieved March 28, 2020, from https://allthatsinteresting.com/hinterkaifeck-murders