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It was a busy night in Paderborn on June 20, 2006, as people filled the bars of the west German city to watch the World Cup game between England and Sweden. One of these people was Frauke Liebs, a 21-year-old student nurse, who was at an Irish pub with some friends to watch the match.
While she was there her phone ran out of battery, so she borrowed a friends which she returned to her at the end of the night. It was around 11 pm when she left to take the short 1.5 km journey to her apartment. Yet it was almost 2 hours later when her flatmate Chris received a text from Frauke, letting him know that she would be back later. Frauke never returned home, and after missing work the following day, her mother reported her missing.
Police analysis discovered that the text Frauke had sent to Chris that night had been sent from the small city of Neiheim, about a 40 minute drive from where she had last been seen. According to her friends, Frauke would have had no more than €5 on her, and with her flat so close by it seemed odd that she would have travelled by car. However, none of her friends or any witnesses could confirm that she left the pub by foot.
Over the next few days, Chris received a series of strange messages and calls from Frauke’s phone. The first call came the night after she disappeared, from an area south of Paderborn. In this short call, Frauke told Chris that she wanted him to know that she was fine. When he asked where she was, Frauke simply told him to tell her parents that she was fine and then hung up the phone. Unusually, she had addressed Chris by his given name, Christos.
The next evening, Chris received a text from Frauke’s phone, this time from another area of the city. In it, Frauke again said that she was coming home later. Upon hearing this, Frauke’s brother Frank called her to ask her where she was. Frauke replied: “I'm coming home, not too late, I’m in Paderborn. Don't ask, I will be coming home.”
Transcripts from calls to Chris on June 24 and 25 have never been released, but yet again they were in different spots in the city. Frauke’s sister Karen was with Chris for the final call, which was made on the night of June 27. The transcript for this call is as follows:
Chris: Frauke?! Karen is here too!
Frauke: Are mom and dad there too?
Chris: No they're gone already. Hey I'll just put you on speakers.
Frauke: Is Karen close to you?
Frauke: I'd like to talk to her please.
Karen: Hello Frauke, how are you?
Frauke: Please don't ask.
Karen: Are you tired? You sure sound tired.
Frauke: Yeah (sighs). Please tell everyone I love them really much.
Karen: When are you coming home? I got to hang up... please hand the phone over to Chris.
Chris: You've got to tell me where you are.
Frauke: I can't.
Chris: Are you held captive?
Frauke: (sighing quietly)* Yes.* (louder) No, no!
Chris: Who's with you?
Frauke: I can't tell you.
Chris: Have you met some other guy?
Frauke: You know I'd never stay away from home for a week just because of some guy. You know me! I’ve got to go.
Chris: When will call again?
Frauke: I'm not sure.
Chris: Please call every day!
Frauke: Yes I will. Ciao, Bye for now!
Neither Chris nor any of Frauke’s other friends or family would ever hear from her again. A few months later, on October 4, a hunter discovered Frauke’s body in a wooded area near Lichtenau, about 20 km from where she was last seen.
She was completely skeletonised, and wearing the same clothes that she had left the bar in. Her phone, handbag, watch and wallet were nowhere to be found. Due to the advanced decomposition of her body, no time or cause of death could be determined, and no evidence, DNA or otherwise, was found at the scene. According to experts, the place that her body was found was not the place she was killed.
Police determined that Frauke had likely been held captive in the Nieheim area, where the very first text from her phone had been traced, and that the other calls were made to divert their attention elsewhere. With so little to go on, no motive for the crime has ever been found.
In total 900 people have been questioned by police, narrowed down to five initial suspects who all produced alibis clearing their names. For a while, the case went cold, until the unrelated arrest of a couple in 2017.
Wilfried W and his ex-wife Angelika B were arrested in Höxter, 22km from Nieheim, for killing a woman Wilfried had met through a newspaper ad. Wilfriend and Angelika, pretending to be his sister, subjected the women to two months of torture before she finally died from a blood clot in her brain. They had been attempting to drive her back to her apartment when their car broke down, and instead called an ambulance to take the woman to hospital.
Staff called the police when they saw the horrific injuries inflicted on the young woman. When police raided Wilfried and Angelika’s house, Angelika confessed that they had killed another woman, who had been stashed in their freezer before being thawed out and burned, her ashes scattered on the roadsides of their village.
Police soon discovered that the couple had taken out newspaper ads across the whole of the country, and even as far as Prague, so much so that there were only two German newspapers that they did not owe money to. The real number of victims is unknown, though Angelika has confirmed that were many more than two. After two years at trial, the couple were convicted for their crimes. Wilfried W was sentenced to 11 years in a psychiatric ward, while Angelika B was sentenced to 13 years in prison.
The proximity of their home to Paderborn made them possible suspects in Frauke’s murder. Investigation into Wilfried’s whereabouts and phone activity in June of 2006 revealed a startling similarity with that of Frauke’s. Whether she fell prey to Wilfried and Angelika, we will probably never know. But knowing what went on in the the 'Höxter house of horrors', perhaps it is best that we don't.