Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Vampire Killers

The Monster of Dusseldorf

Peter Kürten
Peter Kürten
A necrophile, rapist, and killer, Peter Kürten targeted almost any vulnerable person.  His mild manner charmed women and children alike, and in his confession, he claimed that he got his start when a neighbor taught him how to torture animals.  He learned to stab them to death while he was raping them. Then when he was nine, he set up an "accident" in which two other boys died. He committed a number of petty crimes, for which he served time, and then he grew bolder.  Richard Monaco and Bill Burt tell his story in The Dracula Syndrome.

In 1913, in the locked room of an inn at Koln-Mulheim in the Rhine River Valley, on the second floor, a 10-year-old girl was found murdered in bed.  It appeared that she'd been disturbed while asleep and there were bruises on her neck.  Upon closer inspection, investigators noticed two incisions on her throat, one shallow and the other deep. Next to the bed, the mat had absorbed a large amount of blood, but there was little on the bedclothes. Bruising around the victim's genitals indicated forced penetration but no semen was found. In addition, the autopsy found less blood in her body than should have been the case.  Discovered at the crime scene was a handkerchief with initials, P.K., which matched the girl's father, but he denied ownership.

A suspect, the girl's uncle, was arrested but freed due to lack of evidence.  There were no other suspects and the murder went unsolved.

Sixteen years passed without incident, and that's because Kürten was in prison for something else.  When he came back to town, another young girl, this one only 8, was found nude and stuffed under a hedge.  A week later, a 45-year-old mechanic was found dead next to a road, bleeding from 20 stab wounds, many of which had been to his temples. 

Six months went by before two girls were murdered at the fair grounds.  The five-year-old was manually strangled and her throat was cut.  The 14-year-old was also strangled and then beheaded.  Both were left lying a few feet apart near a footpath.

There were other attacks in which the victims survived, but then one night an adolescent girl was raped and battered to death with a hammer.  Six weeks later, a 5-year-old child disappeared and a letter came to a local newspaper written by her killer.  He offered a map to the body and police soon found the strangled, battered body.  She's been stabbed 36 times.  The letter also described the location of the corpse of another young woman who'd been missing for several months.

Citizens began to think they had a Satanic monster in their midst. Kürten and his wife were among those discussing the matter, so she was surprised when the police arrived one day to question her husband about an attempted rape.

Once he was in custody, Kürten confessed to everything.  He explained that he'd committed numerous assaults and 13 murders, and admitted to drinking the blood from many of his victims because blood excited him. He'd once bitten the head off a swan, he stated, and ejaculated as he drank its blood. Looking back at the 1913 incident in the inn, Kürten described how he broke into the room, choked the girl, and cut her throat.  He recalled how the blood had spurted into an arc over his head, which had excited him to orgasm, and then he drank some.  It was his own handkerchief, with the initials, P.K. that had been found there.

There were other murders, he added, that inspired him to drink blood from throat wounds he made, and a couple of times he became sexually excited after taking a hatchet to a stranger.

At his trial, defense psychiatrists declared him insane, but the jury ignored them.  He was sentenced on nine counts of murder to be executed in 1931.  Just before dying, when some express remorse, Kürten expressed a desire to hear his own blood bubble forth after the blade came down.

 

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