Joachim Kroll: The Ruhr Cannibal
A nomadic German sex killer, Kroll lived in the vicinity of Duisburg, filling his bachelor apartment with electronic gadgets and inflatable sex dolls, frequently strangling the latter with one hand while he masturbated with the other. Too nervous and shy for sex with conscious partners, he turned to rape and murder at age 22, killing so often over the next two decades that he lost count of his victims.
In the 1960s, Kroll tried cannibalism on a whim, enjoying it so much that he kept up the practice, stalking “tender” victims in an effort to reduce his grocery bills.
Kroll’s first remembered victim was 19-year-old Inngard Strehl, raped and murdered in a barn near the village of Walstedde, during February 1955.
Twelve-year-old Erika Schuletter was the next to die, raped and strangled at Kirchhellen in 1956. Three years later and miles away, he killed Klara Jesmer in the woods near Rbeinhausen, on June 17, 1959. Sixteen-year-old Manuela Knodt was raped and murdered near Bredeney, south of Essen, with slices cut from her buttocks and thighs in the first slaying attributed to the man police would dub the “Ruhr Hunter.”
On April 23, 1962, 13-year-old Petra Giese was raped and killed at Rees, near Walsum, both buttocks sliced off, along with her left forearm and hand. The Hunter was still stalking Walsum on June 4, when 13-year-old Monica Tafel vanished on her way to school. Searchers found her body in a nearby rye field, steaks carved from her buttocks and the back of her thighs.
Kroll sometimes changed his pattern, in an effort to confuse police. No meat was taken when he murdered 12-year-old Barbara Bruder, in Burscheid, during 1962.
In August 1965, at Grossenbaum, he crept up on a pair of young lovers, stabbing a tire on their car, then fatally knifing the driver, Hermann Schmitz, when he stepped out to investigate the noise. In Marl, he raped and murdered Ursula Roling on September 13, 1966, rebounding three months later to kill five-year-old Ilona Harke at Wuppertal, slicing steaks from her buttocks and shoulders.
Kroll’s luck nearly ran out in 1967, when he settled briefly in Grafenhausen, befriending local children who began to call him “Uncle.”
Luring a 10-year-old girl into a nearby field one afternoon, he promised to “show her a rabbit” but produced obscene photos instead, hoping the child might become sexually aroused. Instead, she was horrified, bolting for safety as Kroll made a grab for her throat, and he fled Grafenhausen the same day, before police could begin asking troublesome questions.
On July 12, 1969, he invaded the home of 61-year-old Maria Hettgen, in Hueckeswagen, strangling her to death and raping her corpse in the front hall. Reverting to children on May 21, 1970, Kroll waylaid 13-year-old Jutta Ranh in Breitscheid, discarding her strangled body after he had satisfied his lust. In 1976, 10-year-old Karin Toepfer was raped and strangled on her way to school, in Dinslaken Voerde.
Kroll’s arrogance defeated him in July 1976, when he claimed the next victim in his own neighborhood of Laar, a Duisburg suburb.
Four-year-old Marion Ketter was reported missing from a nearby playground, and police were asking questions door-to-door when they heard a curious story from one of Kroll’s neighbors. According to their witness, Kroll had warned him that the upstairs toilet in their block of flats was clogged “with guts.” A plumber quickly verified the statement, flushing a child’s lungs and other organs out of the pipe, and detectives went calling on Kroll.
In his apartment, they discovered plastic bags of human flesh stored in the freezer; on the stove, a tiny hand was boiling in a pot with carrots and potatoes. Convinced that they had bagged the Hunter, officers were stunned by Kroll’s long-running litany of rape and murder.
He remembered fourteen victims, but he really couldn’t say if there were more, a circumstance that left detectives free to speculate upon his final body-count. With capital punishment abolished in Germany after World War II, Kroll received the maximum possible sentence of life imprisonment.