Friday, July 2, 2010
A small class of serial killers are the mentally retarded who usually are caught quickly by authorities because they are unable to conceal their crimes sufficiently. But Joachim Kroll of northwestern Germany was an extreme example of a man suffering from mental retardation who was able to evade police discovery for nearly twenty one years. The classification of the mentally retarded offender is described as one who has limited vocabulary, difficulty answering questions, prefers young children as friends, acts impulsively, is incapable of understanding consequences, and has limited ability of recalling events that might have taken place.
Notoriously incompetent, mentally retarded serial killers cannot commit their crimes without an accomplice who can help them rape victims, hide bodies and construct a viable alibi. Most killers with low IQ’s, such as Otis Toole, are able to commit their crimes primarily with another smarter and more capable person, such as Henry Lee Lucas. Joachim Kroll, one of the few exceptions, was able to do all of these things by himself, perhaps out of sheer luck. Police investigations were looking for a multitude of killers who were intelligent enough to kill for twenty years without being caught. This is a classic example of police searching for someone they believed was very smart, but in fact, they were seeking a seriously below average individual who was of a third grade intelligence.
Joachim Kroll, born on April 17, 1933, was the eighth son of a mining family in Hindenburg, now part of Poland, in the Upper Silesia area of Germany. With an IQ of 76, labeled as borderline retarded, Kroll was considered by many as the town idiot. Joachim was a constant bed wetter, which surely had something to do with his self esteem and impotence. When Kroll’s father died in World War Two, his family moved to a small two room home which Joachim shared with his six sisters and one brother. Joachim attended school for a mere five years before he went to work on the family farm. With the social skills of a third grade, he lived as an adult with a very low intelligence. Kroll stayed on the farm with his mother until he was 22, possibly because he found it too difficult to live on his own.
Kroll moved to Duisberg, suburb of Laar, the northwestern part of Germany. He began work as a lavatory assistant after the death of his mother in 1955. Living on the street of Friesenstrasse, Kroll was known by local children as “Uncle Joachim” because of the fantastic toys and candy and dolls he kept in his tiny flat. Despite the rules of the building, Kroll invited all of these children into his home, feeling that they were his true friends Kroll loved attention from the young girls that played in the area, believing them to be his own nieces. What the young girls never saw was Kroll’s number of inflatable dolls in his home to satisfy his sexual urges, using them as practice for strangling them.
For years, Joachim lived on Friesenstrasse, indulging his young children with treats and little gifts. Parents of the local families remember Joachim as a pleasant and thoughtful man who seemed to want a family of his own. When Joachim Kroll was arrested for the murders of 14 victims in a twenty-four year span, his neighbors were horrified that they had been living next to a confirmed serial killer. Joachim was found not because of excellent detective work, but because he had stuffed up the toilet drains with body parts.
When Kroll told a neighbor, Oscar Muller, not to use the top floor toilet, he nonchalantly explained that “it is blocked up with guts.” This was a shared toilet in the building. When Muller looked in the toilet, he saw what he thought was butcher remains, red blood and tissue floating in the water. A plumber came to inspect the toilet and found that Kroll was not kidding. The internal organs of a child were found in the toilet, and the police and plumber took out each organ and placed it in a bucket. A young girl, Marion Ketter had been missing for several days and the police soon realized what was disregarded in the toilet was the remains of Marion Ketter.
According to her grieving and appalled parents, Marion was regarded as a sweet and trusting blonde little girl with a sweet tooth for Kroll’s abundance of candy. On Saturday July 3, 1976, Marion’s flesh and vital organs were found hastily stuffed into the drain of the one toilet in the apartment building. At first, Kroll said that the “guts” in the toilet were the remains of a rabbit he had skinned and tried to flush. Police were perturbed and decided to search the Kroll residence. When Kroll showed them the stew he was in the process of cooking, he casually admitted that it contained pieces of the missing girl, including a little hand among the carrots and peas. He did not resist arrest.
Police further found pieces of human flesh in his refrigerator. Kroll, 43, small, balding, be speckled and with large protruding ears confessed to killing at least 14 women from 1955 and 1976 all between the ages of 4 and 61. His victims had been raped post mortem and their flesh taken from their bodies. He told police that as a young man, he had been unable to achieve sexual relations with conscious women. Kroll did not follow the news, proving that his killings were not a desperate cry for attention. He also had no idea that his killings were being broadcast and that police were desperately searching for him.
Like most serial killers, Kroll stalked his victims before deciding to attack. He admitted during his confession that he had intended to kill at least 14 young women, but his memory was not very good. He said he could have killed more, or possibly less. Kroll blamed his deviancy on seeing pigs slaughtered in front of him at the farm he grew up in, the recollection of this violent act burned in his brain for the rest of his life. His second reason for killings, he said, had to do with the fact that food was too expensive to buy where he lived. The simple explanation he gave was that he was hungry and the tender and fleshy meat of young children was the only satisfactory meal he would dine on. He made a very detailed confession with the police that the bodies of very young children were the best meat he was able to find.
The first murder that took place was three weeks after the death of his mother in January 1955. Kroll suffered some kind of psychotic episode that attracted him to commit murder. 19-year-old attractive and outgoing runaway Irmgard Strehl was lured by Kroll to a barn near the village of Walstedde after Kroll had promised her some kind of precious gift. She was stabbed in the neck and then strangled. Kroll wanted Irmgard sexually, but knew that he could not have sex with her while she was alive and fighting. The only arousal he was able to attain was after her death. He viciously raped her corpse and used a long butchering knife to disembowel her. She was found 5 days after being killed.
The reason the murderer was so hard to find was because Kroll committed his crimes in an erratic nature years apart and in different parts of northern Germany. Strangling, knifing, and smothering his victims also gave the police a profile of several different men, none of which fit the description of Joachim Kroll. The bodies of the victims Kroll killed were skinned expertly, leaving the bodies intact. It was as if he was plainly making a meal out of a small animal. By 1966, seven more victims were found after the first killing of Irmgard Strehl. All of them had been strangled, raped post mortem, and pieces of flesh missing from their bodies. Police at the time did not realize that Kroll was not only mutilating his victims, but also eating potions of them.
In December 1966, Kroll strangled a 5-year-old Ilona Harke in a ditch at Wuppertal. He raped her and cut her flesh before satisfying his curiosity of drowning someone. Her cause of death, drowning, was another curve that sent police in the opposite direction. Kroll can be identified as an impulsive killer, one who is disorganized and has a wild pattern. But compulsive killers often use the same methods over and over, just like Kroll. When Kroll was finally apprehended, police were unable to find him neither an impulsive nor a compulsive killer. He just didn’t fit the profile of a usual serial killer. Years had gone by between the killings, showing Kroll to have the ability to curb his actions, while certain years he had maniacally and sadistically murdered and ate his victims. Kroll killed and raped a 16-year-old Manuela Knodt in Essen and used the flesh from her buttocks as meat. He masturbated over her body, leaving semen on her face and pubic area. Police believed her death to be an attack from a gang of boys. A man did confess to this murder, but later recanted his story. He was convicted and served 5 years of an 8 year sentence.
Other innocent men were found guilty of Kroll’s murders. On June 16, 1959, Klara Frieda Tesmer, a 24-year-old young woman was murdered in the meadows near Rheinhausen. Heinrich Ott, a local mechanic was arrested for the murder. Wrongly accused and unable to clear his name, he hanged himself in jail. On April 23, 1962, Petra Giese, a 13-year-old, was raped and strangled in Dinslaken-Bruckhausen. The accused, Vinzenz Kuehn was arrested and convicted for her murder. Ursula Rohling, a twenty-year-old was found strangled in some bushes. She had been dead for nearly two days when found, stripped from the waist down and provocatively posed. She had been visiting with her boyfriend that night, and he was a suspect for her murder. So distressed and distraught was her boyfriend, he threw himself in the Maine River. Abducted from Walsum on her way to school on June 4, 1962, Monika Tafel was killed by Kroll for his next meal. He used the meat from their buttocks, thighs and forearms to make a sort of steak. After serving a short sentence, Walter Quicker, the man accused of killing Monika Tafel, hung himself in the woods of Walsum after being taunted and relentlessly insulted by the citizens of Walsum.
Kroll avoided capture by travelling to nearby towns to find his victims. Kroll was not immediately connected to the crimes of the first victims from 1955 to 1966, for there had been a 10 year gap between Ilona Harke and Marion Ketter. Kroll was able to cover his crimes by slaying them in different ways and doing it in different areas of Germany. He also did not always use cannibalism, so his crimes were thought to belong to other men. The only consistency in each crime was the aggressive sexual nature inflicted after death and the fleshy parts of the bodies crudely removed. Police believed that the killer was possibly taking a cruel souvenir from each woman.
Joachim Kroll at first only admitted to killing Marion Ketter but while comfortable in his cell, he later confessed to other murders, many of which other men had been accused and convicted of executing. Kroll took his victims to various quiet and isolated spots, such as wooded and deserted areas. “Uncle Joachim” was seen by many as a kindly and very decent man, his only distinction being that he was a clearly an identifiable mentally retarded man. Kroll admitted to what he called a severe illness of cannibalism and asked for a cure, thinking that would be the end of it. Without remorse or regretful feeling, and the fact that he was not insane, Kroll was known as a sufferer of psychopathic thinking and found by psychiatrists as sexually sadistic. Psychopaths are unable to learn from consequences.
Other German serial killers were compared to Kroll, such as Fritz Haarman, who murdered between twenty-seven and forty young men by biting through their necks and whom he'd raped and murdered, Karl Denke, who slaughtered and ate more than thirty people, Georg Grossman, who dismembered, consumed and sold the flesh of possibly fifty women and Peter Kurten who was charged with nine murders and seven attempted murders in Prussia Rhine Province.
Long ago, people who cannibalized were called werewolves, when in fact, they were suffering from some kind of an erotic disorder that made them believe sex and eating human flesh with a corpse was allowable. During the trial, Kroll naively hoped to have a surgical procedure that would help him stop committing his crimes. The charges against him were 8 counts of murder and one count of attempted murder. He would have been charged with all 13, but his crimes were often decades old and too difficult to uncover. The trial lasted 151 days, beginning October 4, 1979 in Saal 201, in Duisburg, ending in April 1982. Capital punishment had been abolished after the war, so Kroll was sentenced to 9 consecutive life sentences in Rheinbach prison. Kroll was found a mental defective and incarcerated for life in a hospital for the criminally insane. On July 1, 1991, at the age of fifty-eight, the notorious Ruhr Hunter died from a heart attack.