Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Bait and Switch: The Cannibal Crimes of Joachim Kroll

A Strange Diet

Joachim Kroll
Joachim Kroll

Moira Martingale tells the most complete story of what happened next in Cannibal Killers, and it plays out similarly to what would happen in England to serial killer Dennis Nilsen six years later, in 1983. The residents of the apartment building on Friesenstrasse shared a lavatory, and one of them, Oscar Muller, was on his way to use it. In the hallway, he encountered his neighbor Joachim Kroll, who warned him that the toilet was all stopped up. He said it shouldn't be used.

"Was ist los?" Muller asked him, and Kroll responded that it was plugged up. Muller wasn't quite certain that he'd heard correctly when Kroll added that it was full of "guts."

Muller thought it was a joke, so he went into the lavatory. To his horror, he saw that the water in the bowl was blood-red and it had a foul odor. Holding his nose and looking more closely, Muller believed he could see some sort of wet tissue floating to the top, although if his neighbor had not tossed off such an odd comment, he wouldn't have recognized it. The stuff did resemble guts, and he could not imagine who would toss their butcher scraps in here. If that's what it was. The blood-red color looked disturbingly fresh.

Running down the stairs and out to the street with the intention of going to the police, Muller encountered one of the officers searching for little Marion. Muller stammered out what he'd seen in the toilet and several officers accompanied him to the lavatory to see for themselves what was in the toilet. Knowing they had a missing child and aware that several children had been killed in the general area, they feared the worst.

It appeared that something once living had certainly been cut up and dumped into the toilet bowl, and was stopping up the pipes, but the dark water made it difficult to see, so they sealed off the room, shut off the water and called a plumber and the medical examiner, just in case. When the right personnel arrived, several officers moved a large bucket into place. Lifting the bowl and sealing it, they poured the contents into the bucket, and for the first time were able to make out what was in it. Along with the water were what appeared to be the internal organs of a child: lungs, kidneys, intestines, and a heart. There were also pieces of flesh that appeared to have been cut from the fatty part of the victim.

Muller told the police what the pleasant little man known as "Uncle Joachim" had told him about "guts" in the toilet, so they went to his apartment and knocked on the door. He seemed unfazed by their presence. They asked him what he knew about the toilet and he admitted that he'd killed and skinned a rabbit for his stew and had tossed the internal organs into the bowl. He'd meant to flush them to get rid of them, but he'd apparently put too much into the toilet at once. While they could smell the stew cooking in the kitchen, they knew that what they'd fished from the toilet had not been from a rabbit. With the missing child on their minds, they insisted on coming in to look around.

Kroll's Kitchen
Kroll's Kitchen

Kroll allowed them to search his three-room apartment. As they moved into the kitchen, he showed them the stew, admitting that it contained pieces of the missing girl. The investigators were aghast at his confession as well as at his nonchalant manner. Yet when a detective used a spoon to stir the pot, he fished out what turned out to be a tiny hand that had cooked among the carrots and potatoes. Despite this repulsive find, the police continued to search. In the refrigerator on plates, they found more pieces of "meat," which Kroll apparently had expected to consume in the near future. The freezer contained a few more such packages, all nicely wrapped for preservation. Uncle Joachim, the beloved neighbor whom local parents trusted with their children, had a lot to answer for, not the least of which was his bizarre appetite. As he was prepared to be taken in for interrogation, he did not resist.

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