Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Fritz Haarmann: The Butcher of Hannover

A Reign of Terror

The murders now gained pace and in the following nine months 12 more young men's lives were taken. In almost every scenario, the victim was met at the train station and offered accommodation or work; or apprehended on the pretence that his abductor was a police officer. This guise was used so often that on one occasion, after a youth welfare worker had asked the guard as to whether Haarmann was employed in the same capacity, the station official replied, "No, he's a detective." Once in the Neuestrasse room the boy would be killed, according to Haarmann, by biting through his windpipe. Always with a view to his commercial instincts, the body would then be dismembered and the clothes and meat sold through the usual channels for smuggled goods. The useless portions were thrown into the River Leine.

One year later, when the items confiscated from the killer were on public display, victim's families discovered a wealth of personal artifacts, many kept as souvenirs and the remainder sold on through Haarmann's impressive distribution network. On each occasion there was normally an array of witnesses who had seen the recognizable Haarmann (and often Grans) approach and leave with the stranger. Such was the respect that the two men had now earned for themselves, however, that no incident was ever reported. On one such circumstance Haarmann even had the audacity to reply to an announcement in the paper offering a reward for information. He appeared at the family door under the guise of a criminologist, yet was said to have spent most of his time "laughing hysterically."

The murders continued unabated throughout early 1924, Haarmann honing his remarkable knack of spotting disillusioned young tearaways at the station and then removing them casually into the night. Due to the nature of the victims, angry or estranged parents and friends often took a while to even report the disappearance. By then, the clothing and meat of the victims had been speedily distributed around Hannover and were practically untraceable. Without that sort of hard evidence, the police were at a virtual dead-end, although there were some particularly close calls. On one such occasion, a portion of the trader's meat was taken to the police because the buyer thought it was human flesh. The police analyst unequivocally pronounced it pork!

The disappearance of Erich de Vries on 14th June 1924 signaled the end of the killer's reign. In classic fashion, it was an offer of cigarettes at Hannover station that tempted the young lad to join the friendly stranger in his room. It was estimated at this time that the fugitive had murdered around 27 boys in less than 16 months: an average of almost two a month.

Despite the enormous manhunt now in operation, the killer had still not been apprehended and Hannover was at the point of public outcry. By late June of 1924 sheer terror had gripped the city and the "Werewolf" was still on the loose.

We're Following
Slender Man stabbing, Waukesha, Wisconsin
Gilberto Valle 'Cannibal Cop'