Norbert Poehlke

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Norbert Hans Poehlke (born September 15, 1951 in Stuttgart ; † October 22, 1985 in Torre Canne , municipality of Fasano , Italy ) was a German police officer who became known nationwide as the "hammer murderer" in 1984/85. He committed six murders and four bank robberies.


Poehlke's parents came to Swabia as refugees from East Prussia after the Second World War . Her son Norbert and a daughter grew up in Geisingen . The family was not particularly well integrated in the local community and was labeled as anti-social . According to contemporary witnesses, parents did not like it when their children had contact with Norbert Poehlke, who therefore tried to gain respect and reputation through risky tests of courage. Nevertheless, he is said to have attempted suicide once because of his outsider position. In 1968 his parents divorced and the children moved with their mother to Strümpfelbach . Norbert started a commercial apprenticeship at the Kaelble company , but was dismissed after several unexcused absenteeism. After working as an unskilled worker, Poehlke attended the Stuttgart Police School , where he met his future wife Ingeborg.

After all, Poehlke was a middle-class police officer in the state of Baden-Württemberg . From 1982 he was employed as police chief for the Stuttgart-Mühlhausen dog squadron . After winning the lottery of DM 36,000, he built a home for himself and his family, which included two sons and a daughter, in the village of Strümpfelbach, which belongs to Backnang, and where he had already lived with his mother; However, the Poehlke couple completely took over the construction financially. After the construction of the single-family house, the family was heavily in debt, after all, they are said to have only left a sum of 250 marks a month for their living expenses. In March 1984, his daughter Cordula died of a brain tumor at the age of four. Colleagues later reported that Poehlke was very depressed because he could not afford treatment for his daughter by expensive private doctors. He may have believed that the child could be treated successfully with the appropriate financial means.

Shortly afterwards, he began a series of three robberies and four bank robberies , three of which followed the same pattern: First, he ambushed a random victim at a remote rest stop in order to get their vehicle. He killed his victims with his service weapon, a Walther P5 , with a shot in the head. After the fact, he drove the captured vehicle to a small bank branch to rob it. Disguised, he smashed the window of the ticket office with a sledgehammer; robbed cash and then escaped in the foreign vehicle. It is unclear to what extent his wife knew about these acts - on the one hand, he was able to explain the origin of the money with part-time jobs, on the other hand, the sums stolen and spent were well above what he could earn as a security guard. At least at a later time, the search expressly referred to the perpetrator's typical gait (Poehlke was slightly handicapped), so that his wife might well have become suspicious.

The series of murders terrified the residents in the Heilbronn - Ludwigsburg area for over a year, so the farmers in the region no longer wanted to work alone in the fields, and forest workers were given instructions to only go into the forest in pairs. The unknown perpetrator was soon dubbed a "hammer murderer" in the media, although the sledgehammer was not his murder tool.

Chronology of the crimes and wanted actions

Poehlke committed the first murder on May 3, 1984 in a parking lot near the “Häldenmühle” sewage treatment plant near Marbach am Neckar ; his victim was the 47-year-old engineer and traveling salesman Siegfried Pfitzer from Aschaffenburg. Following the crime, Poehlke raided the Volksbank branch in Erbstetten and captured 4,790 DM. Despite intensive police investigations, the search for the perpetrator was initially unsuccessful.

On December 21, 1984 Poehlke committed his second murder in the “Rohrthäle” forest car park near Großbottwar , in which the 37-year-old Englishman Richard Wethey from Nuremberg fell victim. A week after Wethey's murder, Poehlke raided the Volksbank branch in Cleebronn . In this attack he captured 78,000 DM.

The SOKO "Hammer" formed as a result, which was based in the Bottwar school center, subsequently carried out the largest police operation in post-war history in West Germany. In the next four months, the investigators followed up around 540 leads and checked more than 1,000 people.

On July 5, 1985, the leading State Police Directorate Stuttgart  I asked unsolved publicly for the help of the audience in the television program Aktenzeichen XY . After the broadcast, in which a wanted film reconstructed the previous murders and assaults, the criminal police did not receive any decisive information from the population. It is believed that Poehlke's wife saw the program, in which the family owned sledgehammer that the perpetrator had left behind was shown and the perpetrator's characteristic walk was pointed out.

On July 22, 1985, Poehlke committed his third murder in a parking lot on the L 1100 between Ilsfeld and Flein , where he shot the 26-year-old electrician Wilfried Schneider from Beilstein. Immediately after the murder, Poehlke tried to raid the Raiffeisenbank in Spiegelberg , but had to flee without prey.

After the third murder, public pressure on the police increased significantly. This has meanwhile investigated the suspicion that the perpetrator could come from within their own ranks. In August 1985, an Italian-born police officer was arrested as a suspect; However, it quickly turned out that this had nothing to do with the series of murders. Poehlke was also questioned as part of the investigation; However, a series of investigative errors meant that his trail was initially not pursued any further.

On September 27, 1985, Poehlke attacked the Raiffeisenbank in Rosenberg , but this time without getting an escape vehicle through another murder. He stole DM 11,000 and fled in a bank customer's vehicle. On the basis of descriptions of witnesses, this time the police were able to create a phantom picture of the perpetrator, which, as it later turned out, was very similar to Poehlke.

After the investigators had meanwhile shot at the service weapons of all police members in the Stuttgart area and had them compared with the projectiles from the crime scenes, the evidence of Norbert Poehlke intensified at the beginning of October 1985.

In view of his impending arrest, Poehlke killed his wife sitting on the couch with a head shot on October 13, 1985 in his house in Strümpfelbach, Ludwigsburger Straße 26, and then shot his older son in bed in the face in the children's room. He then fled to the Italian coastal city of Brindisi in his private car with his youngest son . In the port of Torre Canne, which belongs to Fasano , he finally killed his son on October 22, 1985 with a shot in the face and then shot himself in the head.

Film adaptations and documentaries

The German lawyer and screenwriter Fred Breinersdorfer published the book Der Hammermörder in 1986 together with Elke R. Evert . A documentary novel and wrote in 1989 based on the case of Norbert Poehlke the play The Hammer Murderer . The film of the same name based on it, starring Christian Redl and Ulrike Kriener , was broadcast on ZDF in 1990 and was awarded the Adolf Grimme Prize the following year .

The 1999 episode "Greed" of the television series Die Cleveren was based on the Poehlke case in a number of details; These include, for example, the modus operandi for the procurement of vehicles for the robberies, the living conditions of the perpetrator or the suspect of another police officer in the course of the investigation.

In 2001, the ARD broadcast a documentary on the Poehlke case under the title The Hammer Murderer - Blood Trail of a Police Officer , as part of its series The big criminal cases , which reconstructs the course of the crime on the basis of the investigation files and in which numerous contemporary witnesses have their say.

In 2018 the case was the main topic in episode 4 of the ZDF documentary series Clarified - Spectacular Criminal Cases . The first broadcast took place on June 15, 2018.


  • Fred Breinersdorfer , Elke R. Evert: The hammer murderer. A documentary novel. Factor-Verlag, Stuttgart 1986, ISBN 3-925860-00-2 . Several reprints; last as:
    • Fred Breinersdorfer: The hammer killer. A documentary detective novel. Verlag Buch & Media, 2000, ISBN 3-8981-1680-8 .
  • Martin Jung: "The Hammer Murderer" - Chief Police Officer Norbert Poehlke. In: Klaus Schönberger (Ed.): Vabanque. Bank robbery, theory, practice, history. Berlin / Göttingen 2000, ISBN 3-922611-83-4 .

Web links

Newspaper and magazine articles

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Individual evidence

  1. Season 1, episode 7, cf. Episode guide for “Die Cleveren” ( Memento of the original from July 26, 2008 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /