unsolved: the hinterkaifeck murders

On the evening of March 31st, 1922, the six inhabitants of Hinterkaifeck farm were murdered using a mattock. To this day, the murder remains unsolved.

Hinterkaifeck was a small farm situated between two Bavarian towns around an hour away from Munich. The farm was owned by a family called the Gruber's, which consisted of Andreas (aged 63) and his wife Cäzilia (72), as well as their daughter Viktoria (35) and her children Cäzilia (7) and Josef (2). The family also had a maid, Maria Baumgartner (44), who was killed in the house with them. Despite the remoteness of the farm, the family was fairly well known in the area, mainly due to the rumors of violence. Andreas was known to frequently beat his wife, as well as speculation that Josef was the result of an incestuous relationship between himself and his daughter. In general, the family were quite reclusive and largely kept themselves to themselves, with the exception of Viktoria who had a good reputation around the towns.

The descent into the world of weird began when the previous maid left six months before the murder. When asked why she wished to leave immediately, she told how she heard footsteps along with other strange noises. She became convinced that the house was haunted and could no longer bear to stay. It is believed the new maid, Maria, only arrived on the farm a few hours before she was murdered. In the middle of March 1922, Andreas reported discovering footsteps in the snow which lead from the edge of the forest to the house, however, there were no footsteps that lead back to the forest. After conducting a full search of the house, he found no more footsteps or any signs of intruders. That night, he began hearing strange noises from the attic. However, after fully searching, he found no one in either the attic or around the house so proceeded to go to sleep. When he woke, he found an unfamiliar newspaper on his porch which no one recognized. Not long after, a set of keys went missing from the house mysteriously, and whilst searching for them, Andreas discovered scratches on the tool shed lock as though someone had tried to pick it. None of this information was reported to the police, however, it was mentioned too many people around the village.

On April 4th, the town's inhabitants became concerned for the family. None of them has been seen for a few days and the oldest grandchild had not shown up for school. A few of the townspeople decided to head for the farm in order to check on the Grubers, and after finding no sign of them outside, they proceeded to make their way into the barn to inspect further. Upon opening the door, they were confronted with the bodies of Andreas, his wife, their daughter and the oldest grandchild, lying in a pool of blood. Their bodies had been neatly stacked on top of one another, and covered with hay. The youngest grandchild, Josef, was found dead in his cot inside the house and the maid, Maria, was also found dead in her bedchamber.

Preliminary autopsies found that all of the victims had been killed by blows to the head inflicted by a mattock. Viktortia's body showed sign of strangulation however that was not the cause of death. All of the victims are believed to have died instantly, except the oldest grandchild Cäzilia, who showed evidence of surviving for several hours after the attack. Most of the victims were dressed in bedclothes, and both Josef and Maria were killed in their beds suggesting the murders happened around bedtime.

Police concluded that the murderer had lead Andreas, Cälizia, Viktoria and young Cälizia into the barn one by one to slaughter them. The person had them moved into the house to murder both Josef and Maria. It is believed the daughter and the oldest grandchild died first, as they were still in regular clothes, suggesting that they had gone to investigate the barn possibly whilst the other two were getting changed. Police also strangely noticed that all of the bodies had been covered somehow, the four bodies in the barn had been covered with hay, Maria had been covered with her bed sheets and Josef had his mothers skirt placed over him.

Although the murder had been placed on the night of the 31st, when townspeople were questioned, they stated that smoke had been rising from the chimneys that weekend, suggesting that someone was home. Food had clearly been eaten from the kitchen, and somebody had recently slept in a bed. As well as this, the livestock had been recently fed, which was strange as the owners had been dead for almost a week. The family dog, found in the barn and been tied up and although it was shaken, it wasn't harmed just like all of the other animals. This led police to believe that whoever had killed the inhabitants of Hinterkaifeck farm had stayed around for a few days.

Police investigated over 100 suspects during their investigation but struggled to come up with any motive for the killings, let alone evidence. To begin with, they simply assumed it was a robbery gone wrong as the family was known to be quite well-off. However, aside from a few paper notes taken from the victims, large amounts of valuables were still found untouched. Another thing police called into question was the death of Karl Gabriel, Viktorias husband who was believed to have died in battle. His body was never found so a proper burial was never conducted. This theory started after two people came forward after WWII claiming to have met a Russian solider who stated he was the killers. It was believed he faked his death to be free of his wife, however wished to return and snapped when he got home due to what he found. However, this theory never went anywhere as many soldiers said they saw him die in battle, and no trace of him was every found after his death.

The most likely perpetrator is Lorenz Schlittenbauer, a neighbour who had been a suitor of Viktoria's. He publicly claimed that Josef was his son, and so did Viktoria, however, the townspeople were convinced Joseph was a result of an incestuous relationship between her and her father. It is believed Lorenz may have killed the family out of rage, or possibly because Viktoria was planning to sue him for alimony. Not only did Lorenz have a motive, there were other details which possibly pointed to his involvement. Firstly, he had been a member of the original search party that went to the farm. It was reported that when the team went into the barn, the dog had taken a strong disliking to him and barked at him for the whole period that he was there, suggesting the dog had seen him previously. As well as this, a member of the team told how he was not at all bothered by the sight of the bodies, even calmly unstacking them without showing signs of disgust. When asked why he was disturbing the bodies before the police arrived, he stated that he needed to find his boy. Paired with his unbelievable calmness, Lorenz was very familiar with the house, and knew his way around perfectly as though he had spent a lot of time there. This was noted as strange, as no one had ever seen him go into the farm before that day. Although the police interviewed him extensively, they did not have enough evidence to link him to the crime and was never arrested for any involvement.

Since the crime 95 years ago, nobody has ever been arrested in connection to the case, even though it has been reopened twice. What is strange about the case, is that if the noises heard and footsteps discovered prior to the murder were those of the murderer, it suggests they had been in the house many days before they carried out the acts. Even stranger, if they noises heard by the previous maid came from the murderer, they would have been living on the property for over six months before carrying out the attack. In addition to this, big questions remain. Why did the murderer stay living in the house, feed the animals and cover the bodies? Many have speculated that there was some paranormal involvement. The murder may have been by some supernatural force, which explains the footprints, the noises and the missing keys. The police did send the skeletons to Munich, where clairvoyants examined them and came back with nothing.

The bodies of all six victims were buried in a graveyard in Waidhoven, however the bodies are missing their heads as they were sent for analysis in Munich and never returned. It is thought they got lost somehow in WWII, as no one is really sure what happened to them. The missing heads is another strange factor in this case. The farm was demolished a year after the murder, and all that stands there now is a memorial for the six that lost their lives.

In 2007, the students of a police academy examined the case using modern criminal investigation techniques. They concluded that it is impossible to solve the murders, due to the time that has passed. The techniques at the time collected little evidence, and most of what was collected has been lost. As well as that suspects have now died, making it even harder to solve the case. Despite this,it was released that the students established a prime suspect, however they did not release the name out of respect for the still living relatives.

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