Bait and Switch: The Cannibal Crimes of Joachim Kroll
The Ruhr Hunter
Upon his arrest, says Michael Newton, the police believed they might have finally captured the elusive and brutal Ruhr Hunter, so they questioned their forty-three-year-old suspect about his activities during some of the area murders. He readily admitted to what he had done to Marion Ketter, but initially said no more, so he was placed in a cell to await further legal proceedings. The guards seemed to enjoy him and he likewise seemed to appreciate where he was. He kept up his good sense of humor. Within a few days, as he felt more comfortable, he revealed that he was responsible for a number of similar crimes, even taking credit for murders for which other men had been suspected — even convicted. Kroll showed the police where a few of them had taken place, apparently surprising them, as they had failed to link several as the work of a single offender. His confession was long, complicated, and often quite shocking.
Kroll had started to rape and kill women and girls when he was 22. He believed he had killed or tried to kill around fourteen people, but his memory was not so good. There could be more, he admitted. The first one had occurred on February 8, 1955. The woman, identified as Irmgard Strehl, had been only nineteen years old, and her body was discovered about five days after she'd been killed.
Kroll remembered her as a blond who'd been wearing a green coat and carrying a book bag. She'd been a runaway, he recalled, and he had encountered her as he walked along the road. He invited her to walk with him into the woods, apparently promising her something, and then attempted to kiss her. When she struggled against him, he dragged her into a barn and stabbed her in the neck, then raped her. This incident took place near the town of Walstedde (some sources say Lüdinghausen). To ensure she was dead, Kroll strangled her and left her body there (some sources say she was left under bushes several hundred yards from a road). He also used his folding, long-bladed knife to disembowel her. However, an autopsy indicated that while he had raped her in a frenzy, this treatment had occurred postmortem.
A year went by before he killed again, in the town of Kirchhellen, and this time his victim was younger: twelve-year-old Erika Schuletter. Kroll had accosted her, raping her and killing her. Then in 1959, after moving to Duisburg, Kroll killed two women about five weeks apart, in different towns. One source indicates that in March that year before the murders he hit a twenty-three-year-old homeless woman named Erika, after following her from a Duisburg tavern to the Rheinbrucke in Rheinhausen. She was knocked unconscious and probably appeared to be dead, but she survived the attempted murder.
It seemed that Kroll was warming up for more, because on June 16, in the very same location, he went after another woman who was nearly the same age: Klara Frieda Tesmer was found murdered in a meadow not far from the Rhine River, raped and strangled. Kroll said that when she reacted to his attention, pulling away from his grip on her arm, he hit her hard in the head. She continued to struggle as he tried to remove her clothing, and they slipped together down the embankment. He grabbed her by the throat to stop her from resisting, and throttled her until she no longer moved. Then he finished undressing her and raped her corpse, leaving it there for a group of horrified boys to find the following day. It would not be the last one, as Kroll had a strong sex drive.