Peter Kurten: The Vampire of Dusseldorf

When the press discovered that investigators believed that the attacker might be drinking the blood of his victims, he was immortalised in print as the “Vampire of Dusseldorf”.

Peter Kürten was born into extreme deprivation and poverty in Köln-Mullheim, a suburb of Cologne, Germany on 26 May 1883. The eldest of thirteen children, his father was an alcoholic with sadistic tendencies, who brutalised both wife and children, in the one room apartment that they all shared, for the duration of Kurten’s childhood.

This daily subjection to sexual violence must have had an immense influence on the boy who, aged 9, formed an unhealthy relationship with a dog-catcher living in the same building, who introduced him to the practise of bestiality, carried out initially on dogs.

Kurten claims to have drowned two school friends at the age of nine. Having pushed one overboard, the second dived in to his rescue. Kurten held both under water until they had suffocated. At the time the event was dismissed as a tragic childhood accident.

As Kurten matured sexually, his bestiality extended to sheep, goats and other farmyard animals, with the teenager discovering particular pleasure when the animal was stabbed during intercourse.

By 1899, at the age of sixteen, Kurten had progressed to petty crime, and ran away from home to escape the continuing violence. Shortly after his departure, his father was arrested for incestuous relations with Kurten’s 13-year old sister, and he was jailed for three years.

His petty crime soon led to the first of many prison sentences, mostly short-term, for various misdemeanours, that punctuated his existence over the following years. The appalling conditions within these prisons confirmed his sadistic tendencies, which he now transferred from farm animals to humans.

With each successive sentence, Kurten’s rage against society, and his capacity for depravity, increased; he discovered a fascination for brutal sexual acts whilst in solitary confinement, which enhanced his fantasies: so much so that he began to break prison rules to ensure the maximum time in solitary confinement.