Bait and Switch: The Cannibal Crimes of Joachim Kroll
Laar is a suburb of Duisburg, a town in the industrialized Ruhr Valley situated in the northwestern part of Germany. The children who played in the vicinity of number eleven Friesenstrasse (#24 according to John Dunning, author of Strange Deaths) knew a short, balding man there as "Uncle Joachim," because he gave them treats and often defied the building rules to let them into his apartment. He lived alone, but had a collection of dolls and always bought the latest in electronic gadgets. He kept dolls specifically for the girls, because they liked dolls, and he liked little girls. He was a strange man, with a round face, large mousy ears, and glasses, but the children seemed to like him. He had a great sense of humor and knew how to make them laugh.
What they did not see were the more sinister inflatable dolls he kept there for sexual purposes, choking them while he gave himself sexual pleasure. Sometimes he used them to practice his strangling technique. He had a difficult time approaching adult women, and while he did think about them, he knew he made a bad impression. He'd only had one relationship, and it had quickly failed. So even as a young man, he'd turned to rape.
He seemed uninterested in news reports over the past two decades about women and girls who had been murdered in the area, possibly by an unknown individual they called the "Ruhr Hunter." He himself knew of more than a dozen. Generally he roamed away from his own neighborhood when the restless "tingling" feeling came on him, but as is often the case with compulsive drives, he finally made a mistake that terminated his long (and lucky) spate of violence.
On Saturday July 3, 1976, four-year-old Marion Ketter disappeared from a Duisburg playground (some sources refer to her as Monika). She was a sweet little blond girl who often played with other children, and her parents had never been worried when she went with them. But on that day, she had not come home. Her frantic mother looked everywhere for her, but failed to find anyone who had seen her. She and her husband went to the police, and by the next day a group of officers was going around the neighborhood to ask people there what they might have seen. No information was forthcoming, so they started going door to door to canvass the entire area. It was just at that moment that someone else in #11 Friesenstrasse emerged to look for an officer.
The accounts of this series of murders often conflict on specific details, so the following narrative will note where significant details remain unclear.