Located near the woods outside the Bavarian town of Grobern, an hour’s drive from Munich & a half mile behind or “hinter” to the town of Kaifeck, was the home & farm of 35 year old Viktoria Gabriel & her two kids, 7 year old Cazilia & 2 year-old Josef & her parents, 63 year old Andreas & his 72 year old wife, Cazilia Gruber.
The family was often described as withdrawn & stayed to themselves though on Saturday, April 1, 1922, neighbors started to worry since the farm was unusually quiet. That day, 7 year old Cazilia had missed school & coffee sellers, Hans & Eduard Schirovsky arrived to the farm to take an order but no one responded to knocks on the door or window. They walked around the yard though all was quiet. They noticed the gate to the machine house was open before they left the property.
On Sunday, April 2, two of Viktoria’s friends came to get her for church but found no one at the farm. On April 3, Cazilia was again absent from school. The local postman remembered that he handed Andreas the newspaper during his delivery on Friday, March 31 as Andreas stood by the well, getting water. When he again made his rounds on Monday, April 3, he saw no sign of the family so he put the newspaper on the kitchen windowsill as he had been instructed to do by Andreas. It did stand out to him that he saw no sign of the stroller in the kitchen as he normally did.
On Tuesday, April 4, a mechanic named Albert Hofner rode over to the farm on his bike to fix the engine of a feeding machine. No one responded to his knocking so he waited a while & eventually forced open the door to the engine shed to start the repairs. He ended up spending about four and a half hours on the farm and left without seeing any of the family. That same day, neighbors decided to do some investigating & Lorenz Schlittenbauer, a nearby farmer who had previously had a relationship with widowed Viktoria, led the search party. He initially sent his 16 year old son Johann & his 9 year old stepson Josef to the house around 3:30pm though they didn’t see anyone. Lorenz, Michael Poll & Jakob Sigl headed over to check things out.
When the search party of three approached the barn, they found that it was locked. After breaking in, what they found was an absolutely gruesome scene. Inside the barn they found four battered bodies covered in hay. Inside the house was 2 year old Josef & the family’s maid, 44 year old Maria Baumgartner. It had been Maria’s first day on the job as the previous maid quit 6 months earlier because she was convinced the house was haunted. When she was later questioned, she told police that she had been hearing footsteps in the attic & had the constant feeling that she was being watched. Andreas disregarded her concerns so she ended up leaving her position. The morning of the murders, Maria’s sister escorted her to the Hinterkaifec farm & stayed for a short visit. She was likely the last person to see the victims alive since it was concluded that the family had been killed on the night of March 31, 1922.
A boy was sent on his bike to the nearby village of Wangen to alert the mayor. Inspector Georg Reingruber & his colleagues from the Munich Police Department investigated the murders. When police arrived at the scene, they found dozens of people milling about the farm, contaminating the crime scene, some even making snacks in the kitchen. They had also moved the bodies & items around.
Court physician, Dr Johann Baptist Aumuller conducted the autopsies in the family’s barn on April 5 & found that the older Cazalia had her skull cracked from seven blows to the head as well as signs of strangulation. Adreas’ face was caked in blood & his skin was described as “shredded” with cheek bones showing through his ragged flesh. Viktoria’s skull was fractured; her skull had 9 star shaped wounds & the right side of her face had been struck by a blunt object. Young Cazalia’s jaw was fractured & her face & neck were covered in gaping, circular wounds. These were the four bodies found in the barn, covered in hay.
Inside the house, the maid, Maria was found in her room, covered in a sheet & had blows to the face & head. 2 year old Josef was found in his bed in Viktoria’s room, covered in a dress, also with blows to the face & head. It appeared that a mattock, a pickaxe-like tool used for digging, had been used. The tool had a chisel on one end & a blade on the other.
It appeared that the entire family would have died instantly, though 7 year old Cazilia was likely alive for several hours after the murders. She was found with clumps of her own hair clutched in her hands; likely from the distress she felt, laying amongst her mother & grandparent’s bodies, before she ultimately died from shock. It was likely that the killer lured the four victims to the barn one by one before attacking them with the mattock. The killer then stacked the bodies on top of each other & covered them with hay. It’s assumed the killer then invaded the house, killing Maria & Josef.
The search party found that the family dog, a Pomeranian & other farm animals were not only alive & well but had clearly been fed, the cows had been milked & tended to in the days between the murders & their discovery. People had seen smoke coming from the chimney in those days, suggesting that the murderer had been living at the farm amongst the murdered bodies for close to four days. The police also had discovered that someone recently ate food from the house; the bread had been eaten & meat had been cut from the pantry.
Initially police believed that the murders were comitted by vagrants though this was later dismissed when large sums of money were found untouched in the home. Despite the killer staying at the house for several days, feeding animals, eating meals, lighting fires in the hearth, nothing had been disturbed. More than 100 suspects were interviewed, including local residents & transients. For whatever reason, mechanic Albert Hofner wasn’t questioned until 1933. The last interrogations were held in 1986 though led nowhere. In 1999, an elderly woman approached police, saying her ex-landlord claimed knowledge of the murders but without a live suspect, this led nowhere.
Despite Andreas not believing the former maid about the house being haunted, he had confided in neighbors about recent strange happenings at the farmhouse in the days before the murders. He mentioned finding a newspaper in the house that he didn’t buy as well as footsteps in the snow he noticed Thursday morning, March 30, just a day before the family was murdered. There were two sets of footprints leading from the forest to the farm house, but none leading away from it. Adreas found that the engine shed had been broken into though nothing had been taken. One of the two house keys had also vanished. After hearing about this, a neighbor offered his revolver to Andreas but he declined. It was likely that not only did the murderer live in the house for days after brutilizing the family but had also likely been living in the house’s attic before. Reports said that Adreas heard footsteps in the attic but when he investigated, he found no one.
Viktoria had been a widow; her husband died in WWI; it’s unknown who fathered her son Josef. She had been in a relationship with Lorenz Schlittenbauer & both he & Viktoria referred to Josef as “their child.” They had planned to get married though Andreas intervened & their relationship ended. Lorenz ended up getting married to someone else & their baby tragically died a few weeks after being born.
Police focused their attention on Lorenz; they believed he had been traumatized by the sudden death of his baby & no longer wanted to pay child support for Josef. His farm was located a few hundred yards from his own & those involved in the initial search party felt he was acting odd & suspiciously. He clearly knew his way around the farm & acted very nonchalant around the bodies, handling them without signs of repulsion.
After questioning Lorenz extensively, the police were unable to place him at the scene of the crime. They thought his odd behavior could have been due to shock & that he knew his was around the farm because he had been in a relationship with Viktoria.
Police also believed that Viktoria’s husband, Karl Gabriel, was a suspect; he reportedly died in France almost a decade earlier from a shell attack in December 1914. Many other soldiers had attested to seeing his body though some reports said his body was never recovered & he actually survived WWI. The theory was that he came home & slaughtered the family after finding that Viktoria had a second child with another man.
Some believed that Josef was the son of Viktoria & her father Andreas & that one of the two killed the family & then turned the mattock on themselves. It’s reported that Lorenz Schiebbaur reported Viktoria & Andreas for incest on September 10, 1919, only 2 days after Josef was born. Andreas was taken into custody September 13, 1919, Viktoria was not. At her insistence, Lorenz withdrew his notification on September 25, 1919 & recognized Josef as his son. Andreas was released from custody, September 27, 1919. None of the injuries could have been self inflicted so the idea of a murder suicide was dismissed. Andreas wasn’t popular with the neighbors; they described him as greedy & cantankerous. The true identity of Josef’s father remains a mystery to this day.
It was clear that whoever committed these murders knew their way around a farm as they expertly kept up with the farming after murdering the family. It was likely someone that personally knew the family since the murders were so brutal that it was someone that had a grudge against the family.
The case would close & reopen several times. Shortly after the autopsies were complete, their heads were removed & sent to Munich where clairvoyants tried to find metaphysical clues from the Gruber family skulls. Nothing came of that. The case was closed in 1955 though the last interrogations were done in 1986.
In 1923, a year after the murders, the Hinterkaifek farm was demolished & the family was laid to rest in a nearby cemetery. They were buried without their heads which ended up being lost during the chaos of WWII. A monument stands near where the farm used to be, memorializing the victims. Reports indicate that a pickaxe was found in the attic when the house was being demolished; that and a pocket knife were found . A concrete shine was also placed as a memorial in Waidhofen cemetery where the Grubers & Maria were laid to rest.
In 1999 an elderly woman came forward & said that in 1935, her landlord at the time admitted to having information about the Hinterkaifeck murders. By the time the woman decided to call, the landlord was already dead.
In 2007, 15 prospective detectives from the University of Applied Sciences for Administration & Law in Furstenfeldbruck near Munich, chose the Hinterkaifeck murder case for their final thesis. Police Academy took the Hinterkaifeck murders as a cold case, despite the loss of evidence from the original crime scene. They were unable to solve the murders though did come up with a theory that has been kept private out of respect for families of those involved.
The case remains unsolved to this day.
- Mental Floss: The Chilling Story of the Hinterkaifeck Killings, Germany’s Most Famous Unsolved Crime
- Grunge: The Creepy Truth About the Hinterkaifeck Murders
- The Encyclopedia of Unsolved Crimes: Second Edition by Michael Newton
- Ranker: 11 Disturbing Facts About the Unsolved Hinterkaifeck Murders
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