Bernd Bopp


Bernd Bopp

A.K.A.: "The Hammer Murderer"

Classification: Serial killer
Characteristics: Rape - Sex with corpse
Number of victims: 9
Date of murders: 1975 - 1981
Date of arrest: May 15, 1981
Date of birth: ???
Victims profile: Monika Sorn / Liane Woessner, 11 / Monika Pfeifer / Sylvia Lauterbach, 23 / Marie-Theresa Majer, 21 / Gudrun Thome, 15 / Ellen Abel, 16 / Marie-Elsa Scholte, 20 / Gabriella Bohn, 16
Method of murder: Hitting with a hammer
Location: Western Germany
Status: Sentenced to life in prison on October 8, 1981

Bernd Bopp preyed upon women and young girls in Western Germany using a hammer to murder and rape to satisfy himself, killing nine and allowing four others to survive.

The first victim was assaulted on April 17 1975. Twenty eight year old Lillian Dresch stood at a bus stop in Mannheim-Neckarau, late in the evening Bopp stopped his car, got out and walked purposely towards Lillian. Thrusting an arm around Lillian’s chest to prevent her easy escape, Bopp pierces her throat with a knife he held in the other hand.

Lillian screamed, kicked out, and broke free, her screams alerted the neighbourhood, and so Bopp quickly returned to his car and sped off. Lillian was taken to the local hospital where she would be treated for her throat wound.

Monika Sorn was not as fortunate. On June 9 1975, Monika left her parents home in Hemsbach to go to school, by evening Monika had failed to return home. Knowing their daughter would not forget to tell them that she would be late, they notified the police. A search of the local area took place and Monika’s body was found late that night, her head had been smashed by a rock that was found nearby soaked in her blood.

Doctors determined that Monika had also been raped but were not able to tell whether it was before or after death.

Like Monika, Bopp’s next victim suffered a similar fate. On September 13, 1975, eleven-year-old Liane Woessner left her home in Elmendingen to visit her aunt in Bruchsal, she never arrived. Frantic phone calls to the police resulted in a search of the area between the two towns.

Liane was found dead on the roadside near Bruchsal. The autopsy revealed that she had been killed with a blunt force to the head probably a hammer. Liane had also been raped, the killer had struggled to penetrate her and left his own blood on her body. Samples of the blood would confirm the presence of type AB that matched semen found at Monica’s murder.

Another three months passed before Bopp’s murderous actions returned.

Susanne Bach was walking through the city park in Weinheim on December 22, 1975 when Bopp ran up behind her and struck her twice on the rear of the head with a hammer knocking Susanne to the ground. Bopp stood over her unconscious body.

However, something disturbed the man and he ran away. Susanne was found and taken to the local hospital for treatment. She had suffered a severe concussion, however the hammer had not penetrated her skull.

Ten months passed before another attack took place. Monika Pfeifer was reported missing to Mainz police on October 11 1976 and a search of the area would fail to recover her dead or alive.

It was not until January 6 the following year that her body was found. A fisherman angling in the waters of the Rhine near Mainz dragged to the shore the naked body of Monika. The autopsy revealed that she had died after her skull had been fractured multiple times, probably with a hammer.

The day after Monika Pfeifer was found dead Bopp had another target in his sights. Twenty-two-year-old Barbara Kiel was walking home from the university in Mainz on January 7 1977, when suddenly she was struck from behind by Bopp in his Volkswagen car. She was thrown her into a stonewall along the side of the road. The force of the car broke both of her legs on impact.

Barbara, despite her injuries, had the presence of mind to lie on the ground close to the wall thus preventing Bopp from hitting her again, as he continued to drive against the wall over her body. Finally, Bopp gave up and drove away, leaving Barbara to be found by passers by. Barbara eventually recovered from ordeal. Bopp’s next victim however would not.

Like Barbara, twenty-three year old Sylvia Lauterbach also studied at Mainz University. On March 29 1977, Sylvia’s body was found in a field between Mainz and Bretzenheim, having disappeared the previous day. She was found naked and had been raped and her skull crushed.

The autopsy determined that the murder weapon was a four-pound hammer. In fact, the force of the blows left an imprint of the hammer in the unfortunate girls’ skull. It was Sylvia’s murder that first brought Mainz police to the belief that they had a serial killer on their hands.

Like previous victims, twenty-one-year-old Marie-Theresa Majer had been walking along a lonely road near Schriesheim when she was murdered. Her slain body was found on April 29 1977 at the roadside. She was naked and had the distinctive marks of hammer blows to her skull. Like the other victims, she had also been raped. Again, the semen blood grouping matched the other murder victims. Despite an intensive search of the area, no other clues were uncovered.

After Marie-Theresa’s murder, the killer did not kill again for almost two years.

Just short of the second anniversary of Marie-Theresa Majer’s death, another victim was killed, this time fifteen-year-old Gudrun Thome was the unfortunate victim.

On April 21 1979, Gudrun disappeared from her village of Rot and search party was quickly assembled. The group of searchers found her body lying in a field less than a mile from the village. Gudrun had been raped, the bruises on her thighs indicated that she had been alive at the time; her head also showed the marks of two hammer blows to her head.

Her fingernails had dug into her attacker, pieces of skin and hair remained behind, and the evidence was tested and matched samples taken from previous attacks.

Less than two weeks after Gudrun’s death Bopp struck again. This time he murdered in the town of Saarbruecken. Ellen Abel had spent the night out with friends and when the sixteen year old did not return home, her parents called the local police to report her missing. She was found the next day, with the familiar hammer blows to the back of the head.

On June 4 1980, twenty-year-old Marie-Elsa Scholte was found murdered near Ludwigshafen on the banks of the Rhine. Bopp had once again crushed the young woman’s head with strikes of a hammer, leaving Marie-Elsa with multiple fractures.

Having killed her, Bopp raped her dead body, before dumping it in a field. Ludwigshafen police had noted that the killer did not kill in the same town in consecutive attacks, and so was confident enough to say that the town was safe for the moment.

However, they were wrong.

Ludwigshafen citizen sixteen year old Gabriella Bohn was the next to die and her body was found on February 23, 1981, her head shown the signs of one clear hammer blow that left a significant pool of blood on the ground where she fell. The killer had also raped Gabriella after death.

Returning to Mainz, Bopp drove around the deserted back roads of the town on May 15 1981, until he found his next victim. Bopp saw ten-year-old Ulrike Hellmann walking home from school and decided she was to be his next victim. Bopp stopped his car in front of the girl and strode purposefully towards Ulrike, hammer in his hand.

Ulrike spotted Bopp and turned to run, before she could get away the hammer struck her fully on the back of the head and knocked her to the ground, but she was not unconscious. Bopp mounted the young girl and attempted to rape her.

Karl Lenk was cycling down the road when he saw the pair on the ground, as he got closer he noticed the female was a young girl who started to scream. Karl quickly dismounted from the bicycle and ran toward Ulrike shouting at the man to stop.

Bopp leapt to his feet, got back into his car and sped from the scene. Karl reached Ulrike made sure she was safe and well, Ulrike said only one thing to Karl, the registration number of her attacker’s car.

Later that day with the car registration number in their hands, Mainz police searched the area for the red Renault car driven by Bernd Bopp. Finding the car parked twenty miles away in Alzey, Bopp was lying in the sunshine near the car reading a book as police approached and arrested him.

A search of the car revealed a hammer still stained with Ulrike’s blood. In custody, Bopp - a teacher at a secondary school - confessed to other murders but admitted he could not recall how many or any great details about the crimes.

During his trial, Bopp admitted that he could not help himself and would, upon release, continue what he was doing.

Bopp received a life sentence on October 8 1981.