There is a house in western Germany that looks like a typical child’s drawing.
The white structure’s red slate roof consists of two slanted sides meeting at a single point, out of which pokes a brick chimney. One small square window peeks out of the house’s triangular attic, while two square windows sit below it.
Unlike a structure born from a child’s imagination, though, this was a house of nightmares.
The blinds on those lower windows were always closed, according to Germany’s Deutsche Welle, even though the lights were always on. Keeping the sun out wasn’t the homeowner’s priority, it would seem. Keeping curious onlookers in the proverbial dark, on the other hand, apparently was.
For years, 46-year-old Wilfried W. and his 47-year-old now-ex-wife Angelika inhabited the storybook home. And for years, they allegedly lured women into the home, where they tortured them in such abominable ways that local media dubbed the place the “horror house in Hoexter.”
Wednesday the now-estranged couple’s trial began in Germany, where they are charged with murder by omission and bodily harm, the Associated Press reported. According to Deutsche Welle, Angelika has issued a statement of confession in which she primarily blamed her husband for the crimes.
In keeping with Germany’s privacy laws, both their shared last name and the last names of their victims have not been released.
According to Chief Prosecutor Ralf Meyer, in the search for women to be slaves, “the defendants first led the women to believe in Wilfried W.’s great love, after they had been lured with [lonely hearts] newspaper ads,” the AP reported.
Police began investigating in April, after the couple attempted to drive a 41-year-old woman named Suzanne F. back to her house in Lower Saxony, BBC reported.
She was badly injured from weeks of torture, police said, but the couple’s car broke down en route. While they waited for a taxi, Suzanne’s health quickly deteriorated, forcing the couple to call an ambulance.
Suzanne died at the Helios hospital, and her injuries — bruising across her body, indications on her skin that she’d been bound, toenails that had been ripped from her toes and rotting flesh around her upper buttocks likely from having lain immobile in the same position for several weeks — raised suspicions.
Police claim Suzanne was forced to sleep on the floor of an unheated room for at least two months, according to Sky News.
Inside that house, the one that looks so picturesque from the exterior, the wallpaper was peeling and a thin layer of fuzzy mold was draped over everything. When police entered, they found hundreds of slips of paper on which victims had written that their injuries were self-inflicted, according to Deutsche Welle.
Suzanne, police said, was not the only victim of this “horror house.”
Even more gruesome was the alleged fate of Anika W., a 33-year-old from Lower Saxony who responded to a dating advertisement in 2013.
“The victim suffered again and again from very serious physical torture like being hit all over the body, chained to heaters, being enslaved and beaten,” Meyer said in a news conference in April according to the BBC. “Sometimes the victim had to sleep on the bare floor of cold rooms. Hence, her physical condition became worse and worse.”
Eventually, Angelika told authorities in a statement of confession, Anika attempted to escape. She had been chained by her hands and feet facedown in the bathtub but finally had an opportunity to get away. As she ran out of the house, she tripped and fell in the lawn, hitting her head.
Police said she died in August 2014.
The couple cut Anika’s body into pieces and stored it in the freezer, police said.
Eventually, the couple would slowly burn these pieces in their fireplace, the AP reported. To keep Anika’s mother from growing concerned about her whereabouts, the couple allegedly used Anika’s phone to continue a texting relationship with the mother.
In her confession, Angelika said she smashed Anika’s remaining bones and teeth into a dust with a hammer, so no evidence would remain.
One woman who is an alleged victim, Christel P., will testify at the trial, Deutsche Welle reported. The couple allegedly lured her in with the ad, as they did the others. Then, they stripped her to her underwear and chained her in the barn, where she was standing in manure.
They gave her a cat’s litter box for relieving herself.
Wilfried allegedly even attacked Angelika, who claimed he bit down on her breasts until they were bleeding more than 100 times and, more than 200 times, laid atop her with a blanket between them until she lost consciousness. She claimed she only helped him hurt the other women as a means of protecting herself.
“The ex-wife is portraying him as the main perpetrator, at least in her latest statements,” Wilfried’s lawyer Detlev Otto Binde told Reuters. “We hope that she will pedal back from her latest statements and that she will actually recollect how things actually happened: that she was actually the decisive and driving force in the events.”
In all, police believe eight people total were abused by the couple, according to the AP.
The trial, which began Wednesday, will resume Nov. 16 and is expected to continue until the end of March 2017.
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