Germany · Massacres/Mass Murder

The Hinterkaifeck murders

March 31, 1922
Hinterkaifeck, Germany (present-day Waidhofen, Bavaria, Germany)
A family of 5 and their maid are murdered in their home

Around 6 months before the murders, the family’s previous maid quit, complaining the farm was haunted; her replacement, Maria Baumgartner, began working the day of the murders and was killed within hours of arriving. Just days before the murders, family patriarch Andreas Gruber mentioned strange happenings around the farm, including hearing footsteps in the attic, show prints in the snow that led to the farm but none going the opposite direction, and the keys to the farm going missing. Though Andreas mentioned these occurrences, none were reported to police.

The details will never be known, but one by one the family was lured into a barn: Andreas (63) and Cäzilia (72) Gruber, their daughter Viktoria Gabriel (35), and her daughter Cäzilia Gabriel (7) were each killed in the barn with a mattock — a farm tool with a head that resembles a combination of a pick and axe. The murderer then went into the home and dispatched Viktoria’s sleeping toddler Josef (2) in his cot and the new maid Maria (44) in her room.

The bodies of the slain family were discovered on April 4 when concerned neighbors had not seen any of the family in days. An investigation revealed the murder weapon was likely a mattock. It was also discovered little Cäzilia had lived for a few hours after the attack; she had pulled out tufts of her hair while laying near the bodies of her family.

Initially, vagrants and travelers were suspected of the murders, but the theory was disregarded because nothing had been stolen from the homestead. Another theory involved Viktoria’s husband, who was reportedly killed in World War I but whose body was never found, had come back to murder the family. A third focused on Josef’s alleged father, Lorenz Schlittenbauer, who had been paying alimony to Viktoria. Schlittenbauer had recently married and had another child on the way, allegations were circulating that Josef was actually Andreas’ son from an incestuous relationship with Viktoria (there were previous court documents regarding this relationship), and Schlittenbauer had been part of the original search party and had disturbed the scene before police arrived. Although he was questioned, nothing concrete linked Schlittenbauer to the murders.

Questioning continued as late as 1986, and in 2007 students in a police academy looked into the case again, but the murders remain unsolved.

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