Sex, blood ,and stabbings...inside the horrendous murders carried out by Peter Kürten, the Vampire of Düsseldorf


Her body was found tucked under a hedge in a quiet part of town. She’d been stabbed 13 times, her vagina mutilated, and there was semen on her underwear.

Rose Ohliger was only 8-years-old when she was murdered.

Her maimed body was a grim discovery. It marked the beginning of a year of terror for the residents of Düsseldorf, Germany. A year of terror at the hands of a man who came to be known as The Vampire…

Police officers hunt for clues after one of Peter Kürten’s victims was found hidden under a hedge (Photo: REX/Shutterstock)

Born in 1883, Peter Kürten was the oldest of 13 children. All of whom, along with their parents, lived in one room.

Life was cramped, uncomfortable. And this was only made worse by the violence. Peter’s father was an alcoholic. And after his drinking sessions in the city’s beer halls, he’d force himself upon his wife. His eldest son Peter would look on.

But the sexual abuse wasn’t limited to Peter’s mother. His father would abuse his daughters, Peter’s sisters.

And, at a young age, Peter started to abuse his sisters, too.

Many years later, when awaiting execution, Peter would tell investigators he committed his first murder at around that same time, about 9. While out playing on a raft in a nearby river, Peter boasted of holding a friend’s head under the water until he drowned.

There’s never been any evidence for this crime. It may have been a mere boast born out of his Peter’s troubled childhood.

But while the murder of his school-friend may have been fantasy, the suffering of animals at Peter’s hands was very real.

From a young age, Peter Kürten started working for a local dog-catcher.

While no one was looking, he’d torture the dogs, masturbating as he did so. Before long, he committed bestiality with sheep in local stables.

By 16, Peter was stealing. Mostly, he’d pinch clothes or food. It was enough to land him in prison for short periods. But come 1913, a botched burglary meant he was handed an eight-year prison sentence.

Those years in prison would be formative.

Peter Kürten as a young man (Photo: REX/Shutterstock)

Later, in police interviews, Peter would describe how he spent his time inside fantasizing about violent sexual acts. He’d even engineer situations where he’d be given time in solitary, so he could fantasise and masturbate in peace.

Once released, Peter gained an air of respectability by marrying a local woman. And it wasn’t until 8 February 1929 his killing frenzy began with the murder of Rose Ohliger.

Five days later, he stabbed a middle-aged mechanic to death. And, on 21 August, he stuck again. This time, killing three women in one night.

The local press went into overdrive, naming the killer the Vampire because of the bloody nature of his crimes.

One night a month later, he raped and killed a young servant, and a couple of weeks on, two elderly women.

All his crimes were similar . The victims were cut, sliced, over and over. Some would be stabbed dozens of times, occasionally in the genital area. Others would show signs of having been penetrated vaginally by Peter’s course fingers.

Eventually, Peter Kürten was identified to police by a potential victim who’d escaped.

The Vampire of Düsseldorf was caught.

Police mugshot of Peter Kürten (Photo: PA Photos)

In prison awaiting trial, Peter said he’d killed in order to ‘strike back at an oppressive society’.

He was charged with nine murders, even though he boasted of killing 70 more. And when the judge asked him if he had any conscience, Peter’s answer was simple. ‘I have none,’ he said.

He was found guilty and sentenced to death.

At the time in Germany, death sentences were carried out by guillotine. Shortly before mounting the scaffold, Peter Kürten asked the prison doctor if, after losing his head, he’d be able to hear the rush of blood from his neck at least for a moment before his senses shut down.

‘That would be the pleasure to end all pleasures,’ Peter Kürten said.

Even in his own death, the Vampire of Düsseldorf’s blood lust was insatiable.