Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Bait and Switch: The Cannibal Crimes of Joachim Kroll

The Compulsion to Consume

Jeffrey Dahmer
Jeffrey Dahmer

The "Ruhr Cannibal" or "Duisburg Man-Eater," as Kroll was often called in the press, was just one of a number of serial killers who have consumed parts of their victims, a fair number of them in Germany.  Among the German cannibals are Karl Denke, who butchered and consumed more than thirty people; Georg Grossman, who dismembered, consumed and sold the flesh of an unknown number of women (perhaps fifty); and Fritz Haarman, who sold the meat of between twenty-seven and forty young men whom he'd raped and murdered by chewing through their necks.  In America, Jeffrey Dahmer consumed parts of many of his admitted seventeen victims, all young men, and most of whom he'd lured to his apartment to drug, kill, and dismember.  When the police entered to search it, they found a variety of heads and body parts in the refrigerator, freezer, and inside a large blue tub.  For Dahmer, the act of consuming the flesh had been a sexual experience.

Indeed, cannibalism is counted among the paraphilias listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition, and it appears on the lists of most experts in deviant crimes.  In earlier centuries, such people were often viewed as werewolves, but in fact, they were suffering from an erotic disorder.  While its causal mechanisms are still poorly understood, some experts are trying.

Vernon Geberth
Vernon Geberth

In Sex-Related Homicide and Death Investigation, Vernon Geberth, a former NYPD officer and currently one of the world's top experts in the protocol for homicide investigation, discusses the nature of sexual deviance.  He states that sexual behaviors are classified according to socio-cultural norms as either acceptable or unacceptable, which makes the label, "deviant," essentially a subjective judgment.  Some cultures, for example, consider the act of rubbing against a stranger for gratification marginally acceptable, while others view this behavior as sexual abuse. Human beings develop a wide variety of sexual needs and, thus, they develop a variety of sexual behavior.  No matter what a culture might dictate about what's acceptable, the sex drive will often override these sanctions, although deviant behavior is largely performed in secret.

During a criminal investigation that involves deviant behavior, the police often rely on such acts as biting, stabbing patterns, binding, and sexual abuse of a corpse to link crimes to a single offender.  Perverse behavior is considered a signal to the type of psychopathology an offender may suffer, and because it fulfills a need for that individual, it often becomes ritualistic, repetitive, and unchanging.

"The seeds of sexual perversion are planted early in the psyche of a sex offender," Geberth states.  "However, the sexual perversions do not manifest until the offender reaches puberty.  The seed is nurtured through fantasy, masturbatory activities that reinforce and nourish the particular paraphilic imagery, as well as situational 'acting out' of these perversions with a willing partner."  By the time the offender actually commits a crime, its thematic orientation may have been rehearsed mentally, and sometimes physically, many times.  "The sexual event is the culmination of an offender's psychosocial and psychosexual conditioning and development."

During his confession, Kroll admitted that on a whim, he had tasted the flesh from one of his early victims, and had found that he liked it.  Thereafter, he'd stalked women or girls that he thought would yield tender meat, and sometimes indulged his lust, leaving their bodies sans pieces of flesh.  He accepted that he had some kind of sickness and he asked for a cure so that he could return home.  Naively, he believed that now that he was caught, it would be a simple matter of changing him.  He expected nothing less, and nothing more.


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