HINTERKAIFECK | CHILLING, GRUESOME & UNSOLVED
Updated: Aug 26
On the evening of March 31st 1922, the six inhabitants of Hinterkaifeck farmstead were found murdered. The weapon of choice was a mattock, a gardening tool, and it was used to kill Andreas Gruber and Cäzilia Gruber; their widowed daughter Viktoria Gabriel; Viktoria's children, Cäzilia and Josef; and the maid, Maria Baumgartner. It is known as one of the most gruesome and confusing unsolved crimes in all of German history.
6 months before the murders, the family maid quit & it has been rumoured that her reasons for leaving were due to the fact she believed the house was haunted after hearing noises in the attic. Months later, Andreas Gruber told neighbours that he had noticed fresh tracks in the snow leading from the forest to the farm's machine room, which had a broken lock. The strange thing about this is that there were no tracks leading away. At a similar time, the family's keys started going missing. Just days later the entire family were be killed.
On March 31st 1922 an unknown person, or persons, lured four people to their death. Andreas, Cäzilia, Viktoria & her daughter, Cäzilia were found slaughtered in the barn. Whereas the maid & two year old Josef were found dead in their beds.
It took around a week before the local community noticed the family were missing, as they were known for keeping themselves to themselves. The first sign something wasn't quite right was when Cäzilia (junior) didn't show up for school for a few days. The family hadn't shown up to church & the postman noticed that the mail was starting to build up. It was only then that their neighbours went to investigate and found the horrifying scene.
Through the years more than 100 people have been interviewed by Munich police including a man rumoured to be Josef's father (as claimed by Viktoria), Lorenz Schlittenbauer, was questioned by the police but was later cleared. He denied the child being his however later been overheard making statements that suggested he had been lying & was in fact the boy's father.
Karl Bichler & Georg Mader are the only two people to be named as being seen in the area of the crime, on the night of the murders. There are also witness claims that the pair were acting suspicious by covering their faces.
Bichler was known by police for previous offences, all for robbing other farms in the area. Numerous statements from local residents claiming he was a suspect came forward, however there was no proof to solidify the fact. Some witnesses also went as far as to claim that Bichler had asked them to take part in a robbery at Hinterkaifer & he informed them that it would include killing Andreas to help scare the women.
Based on the police statements, Bichler was arrested for the murders on the 5th May 1922, however he provided a solid alibi for the whole weekend that the gruesome murders took place & he had the witnesses to back up his claims, he was cleared & released by the 12th May. There isn't much information available on Georg Mader although we do know he too had a solid alibi for the night of the murder - as reported by Detective Inspector Neuss.
Another prime suspect was Joseph Bartl, an inmate from a nearby asylum in Gunzburg, 60 miles from Kaifeck. He escaped from the asylum in 1921 (the year previous to the murders) and was never seen again. Bartl was originally arrested for a brutal farm robbery in 1919 & as soon as Inspector Georg Reingruber discovered this, he placed a warrant out for Joseph's arrest in relation to the Hinterkaifeck murders.
The hunt was officially on - however he was never caught.
As the crime took place almost 100 years ago, the murderer will long be dead which makes this even more chilling. As with a lot of unsolved murders, there are rumours & theories about what happened to the family that night.
Some people believe that the murderer must have been living with the family, hidden in the attic, for 6 months and that is the noises the family's original maid claimed to have heard.
It also became common knowledge that Andreas & Viktoria had been arrested in 1915 for incest - however a second claim of this was brought to light by Lorenz who stated the incest had continued & Andreas was in fact Josef's father - although he later retracted this & said it was fabrication.
So many rumours - yet it is unlikely we'll ever find out the truth. Nobody has lived on the land since the murders and the building was torn down in the early 1920's. Instead, in it's place, is a shrine that sits nearby..
During the original autopsies, the family & maid had their heads removed & the skulls were sent off to Munich where they were examined for clues, however none arose. As the farm plot has been torn down, the family are buried (without their heads) in a plot in Waidhofen. Unfortunately their skulls were lost during WW2 and never returned.
Students at German police academy reopened the Hinterkaifeck as a cold case and apparently managed to rule out all suspects except one - using modern police technology. However they refuse to release the name of the suspect as they will be long dead by now & believe it is important to protect the remaining living family.
Will we ever find out what really happened?
Written by Rachael Claire, a freelance blogger and writer. Rachael can be found on instagram and twitter