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German serial killer Peter Kürten, known as the "Dusseldorf Vampire", murdered at least nine people before surrendering to police in 1931.
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Kürten enjoyed the mass hysteria and horror enormously, feeding off the press attention, even going so far as to contact a newspaper, on November 9,1929, with a map detailing the position of the body of his latest victim, Gertrude Albermann, a five-year-old he had stabbed to death two days before, dumping her body under some rubble.
Kürten 's attacks continued into that winter, and the spring of 1930, but none were fatal,
serving only to escalate the horror. Harrowing survivor attacks provided lurid copy for newspapers, an antidote to the growing economic deprivations being inflicted by the Great Depression. Public condemnation of the authorities, for failing to catch the killer, was widespread.
May 14,1930 saw the start of a chain of events that would result in Kürtens eventual capture. He offered a young unemployed woman, Maria Budlick, somewhere to stay, and took her to his apartment, hoping to have sex with her. When she refused, he agreed to find her somewhere else to stay, but on returning her to the train station, he took her into the nearby forest, and raped her before letting her go.
n 's reign of terror he maintained a fond attachment to his wife and, recognizing that he would eventually be caught for the rape of Budlick, now that the police knew his identity, he devised a plan to ensure her financial security following his arrest. He confessed to her that he was the "Dusseldorf Vampire", detailing all the killings and attacks, and he insisted that she would be paid a large reward for turning him over to the authorities.
On May 24,1930, Frau Kürten reluctantly did as he her husband advised, and took the police to their designated rendezvous site, a local church, where Kürten surrendered quietly.
Once under arrest, Kürten provided an astonishingly detailed account of his string of crimes to Professor Karl Berg, a distinguished psychologist, who later published the confession in a book entitled The Sadist. He claimed 79 individual acts of crime in all, and went to great lengths to convince the authorities of his guilt, perhaps in the hope that his full cooperation would ensure the maximum financial benefit for his wife. His memory was nearly photographic, and his recollection of each offence obviously provided him with great pleasure; less so the attending stenographers.
Kürten's trial commenced on April 13, 1931, on charges including nine murders and seven attempted murders. To outward appearances a successful businessman in a well-tailored suit, he initially retracted his extensive confession, claiming that he had sought only to ensure his wife's financial security.
However, exhaustive questioning by the examining magistrate, and a damning litany of evidence, over the subsequent two months, caused him to eventually admit guilt while under interrogation. In an emotionless voice, Kürten claimed that his childhood, and the German penal system, was responsible for releasing his sadistic tendencies, and he showed no remorse for his crimes.
The jury took only 90 minutes to return a verdict of guilty on all counts, and Kürten received nine death sentences. He was executed by guillotine on July 2, 1931, in Cologne, Germany.
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