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Berlin police arrest man suspected of cannibalism, murder

November 20, 2020

German police found cutting tools and traces of blood in the suspect's apartment, after his online history indicated an "interest in cannibalism." Previously, passersby found a pile of bones in a wooded area of Berlin.

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Image: Friso Gentsch/dpa/picture alliance

Berlin investigators have arrested a man on suspicion of murder and cannibalism, after discovering the bones of a man who disappeared in September.

The suspect, reportedly a high school teacher, is believed to have carried out a sexually motivated homicide, according to the public prosecutor. 

"The suspect had an interest in cannibalism," Berlin prosecutors' office spokesman Martin Steltner told The Associated Press. "He searched online for the topic."

While searching his apartment, the police found cutting tools, including knives and saws, as well as bone fragments and traces of blood. 

"A 41-year-old suspect was arrested yesterday & will be brought before the magistrate today," Berlin police tweeted on Thursday, initially saying he was suspected of manslaughter. 

Later, Berlin's prosecutor's office followed up on this, saying that the suspect was in fact suspected of carrying out a "sexual homicide with base motives." Proving "base motives" is necessary by German law in order to push for a fully-fledged murder conviction, a law that's a relic of the Nazi era.

DNA match on bones found in woods

The 44-year-old victim, known as Stefan T., disappeared without a trace after leaving his apartment shortly before midnight in early September, in the Lichtenberg district of Berlin. Police released a photo of the man and asked for assistance in his search.

By October, police were looking for people who could possibly have had contact with Stefan T. through a dating platform. They now believe the suspect contacted Stefan T. via the app. 

The police looked through the victim's online cellphone data to track down the taxi driver who allegedly drove him to the suspect's home. Investigators also used sniffer dogs to help track down the alleged perpetrator.

On November 8th, people taking a walk found bones in a wooded area of the city's Pankow district, which turned out to be the remains of the missing man.

Authorities were led to the 41-year-old suspect after an investigation conducted by the homicide commission and public prosecutors. Investigators also used sniffer dogs in the process.

The case invoked comparison with two earlier cases in Germany where the murder and the victim agreed to the crime..However, Steltner said on Friday that the latest cannibalism case was different.

"There are no indications that the victim consented in any way," he said.

With a view to kill: Germany's worst serial killers

Many of the world's most horrifying crimes are committed by serial killers — among them rapists, child molesters and cannibals. DW takes a look at some of Germany's most notorious and prolific over the last century.

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Cannibal of Münsterberg

Karle Denke murdered and cannibalized at least 42 people, mostly villagers, between 1903 and 1924 in his Münsterberg apartment in then Prussia (pictured). It is thought that he even sold the flesh of his victims at the Breslau (now Wroclaw, Poland) market as pork. A victim was able to escape and later police found cured human flesh in his home. Denke hung himself in his jail cell two days later.

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Horror of Hanover

Fritz Haarmann is thought to have sexually assaulted, murdered, mutilated and dismembered at least 24 boys and young men between 1918 and 1924.The full extent of his crimes were revealed after 500 pieces of human bone, some with knife marks, were found by Hanover residents worried about the disappearance of children in the area. Haarmann, who was once a police informant, was beheaded in 1925.

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Butcher of Berlin

Karl Grossmann killed his victims and sold their meat on the black market and at his hot dog stand. After neighbors heard screaming, police burst into his home to find a dead young woman on his bed. It's unclear how many lives Grossmann took, but he was suspected of dismembering 23 women and involvement in up to 100 missing cases in Berlin. He hanged himself in 1922.

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Terror of Falkenhagen Lake

Friedrich Schumann was a locksmith who raped, murdered and stole from 1918 to 1920. After a confrontation with a local forester — whom he shot — Schumann was arrested and charged with the murder of six people and attempted murder of 11 others. He was sentenced to death six times. The night before his execution at aged 28, he admitted to killing 25 people, including his first victim — his cousin.

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S-Bahn murderer

Paul Ogorzow was convicted of 31 sexual assaults, the murder of eight women and attempted murder of six others in Nazi-era Berlin between 1940 and 1941. Ogorzow worked for the German commuter rail system and would threaten, stab or bludgeon his rape victims before sometimes throwing them off the moving train. He was sentenced to death and beheaded two days later.

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Human trafficker and killer

In 1946 and 1947, Rudolf Pleil worked as a border guard in the Harz Mountains and illegally trafficked people, mostly women, from East to West Germany. For a while, he had two accomplices who would help trap victims. Pleil was convicted of killing a salesman and nine women but he claimed to have killed 25 people. Sentenced to life in prison in 1950, Pleil committed suicide eight years later.

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Man-eater of Duisburg

Joachim Gero Kroll was a serial killer, rapist, child molester and cannibal. Between 1955 and 1976 he murdered up to 14 people, mainly women and young girls. When he was arrested in 1976, human remains were packed in his refrigerator and he was in the process of cooking the arms and hands of a 4-year-old girl he had just killed. Imprisoned for life in 1982, Kroll died of a heart attack in 1991.

general.image.copyright_prefix picture-alliance/dpa/P. Sieländer

Smoking out murder

Fritz Honka was notorious for killing at least four women between 1970 and 1975. He strangled prostitutes in his apartment and cut up their corpses. Firefighters found hidden body parts in his apartment after a fire broke out while he was gone. Honka was sentenced to 15 years in a psychiatric institution. After his release in 1993, he lived in a retirement home until his death five years later.

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St. Pauli killer

Werner Pinzner was a for-hire killer for pimps in Hamburg's red light district. He is thought to have killed between seven and 10 people. Pinzner gained nationwide fame in 1986 when he was brought to the Hamburg police department for interrogation with his wife and lawyer. He suddenly pulled out a gun and shot the investigating prosecutor before turning the gun on his wife and himself.

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Death by poison

Marianne Nölle, a nurse from Cologne, killed patients in her care by poisoning them with an anti-psychotic drug between 1984 and 1992. Police believe she actually killed 17 people and attempted a further 18 murders, but she was only convicted of killing seven patients. She has never confessed to any of her crimes. Since 1993, Nölle has been serving a life sentence.

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Killer on the roads

Volker Eckert was a German trucker who murdered at least nine women, most of them between 2001 and 2006. According to police, there were probably four others. His first victim was a classmate whom he strangled aged 15. Most of his victims were prostitutes he picked up across Europe, and he kept trophies like his victims' hair. Eckert hanged himself in his cell during his trial in 2007.

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Angel of death

Stephan Letter is a former nurse responsible for the death of at least 29 patients by lethal injection at a Bavarian hospital between 2003 and 2004. Arrested for drug theft, Letter confessed to some of the killings, insisting that he was trying to relieve suffering. He is serving a life sentence and until recently, his acts were described as Germany's worst killing spree since World War II.

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Killer nurse

Keen to impress colleagues with his life-saving skills, Niels Högel would inject patients with cardiovascular medication to induce heart failure or circulatory collapse. He was convicted of killing two people and was jailed for life in 2015. However, after a multiyear probe, investigators now believe the former nurse was responsible for 100 more deaths, making him Germany's most prolific killer.

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lc,dj/msh (AP, AFP)

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