MUNICH, Germany—After sawing off the head of her bound and blind-folded boyfriend in the midst of a sex game, Gabi P. just pulled a blanket over the body, closed the door and didn’t enter the room for the next few months. It was only when she went on holiday half a year later that her new boyfriend, Christian K, an aspiring techno DJ who was freshly in love with her, accidently discovered the rotting remains when dropping by to feed her cat. (German privacy laws do not allow the publication of last names ongoing court cases.)
A friend of Christian’s remembers how, several years later, Christian once broke down sobbing in the street. Christian confessed: Gabi murdered her ex-boyfriend and he’s buried in our garden.
“And you didn’t ask him any further questions?” the judge, incredulous, asked Christian’s friend in a Munich courtroom Thursday.
Last week, 32-year-old Gabi P. was on trial here for murdering Alexander H. with an electric circular saw after a fight in 2008. But what looks like coldly premeditated slaughter (Hey, let me blindfold you and get out my saw!) may have been an “act of desperation” brought on by Alexander’s insistence on degrading sex in their relationship.
At least, that’s what the defense is arguing. Most of Gabi’s own testimony is closed to the public. But from other witnesses the judge wants to know: Was Alexander very dominant with Gabi? Did he beat her up? Did he demand and pressure her into BDSM sex?
By the time police officers got around to unearthing Alexander’s remains from Gabi’s yard last year, his parents had long given up the search for their adoptive son. Yet on the fourth morning of the trial, Alexander’s mother walked up to her son’s alleged killer and shook her hand. “They’ve made up!“ an old lady in the audience whispered excitedly.
“I don’t have any hate,” Alexander’s mother told the court on Tuesday, while fighting back tears. “This is terrible for all of us.”
In court, Gabi speaks very quietly. She keeps her face covered and only looks at the judge. Her red hair dye is growing out, revealing roots that have already gone grey.
She’d started dating Alexander (whom she only refers to as “Herr H.”—Mr. H) when she was 16 years old. He, five years older, had made the moves on her. Back then, she thought it was cool “that he made such an effort.”
Once she turned 18, the childhood sweethearts moved into a cosy one-family house that Gaby had inherited, located in Haar, one of Munich’s classier suburbs. They kept bunnies and chickens in the garden. They took in lodgers. They started studying a bit (Montessori-type education for her; Japanese studies for him). Some of the German press has described them as “hippies,” but a better word might be Hänger, deadbeats. They killed time together, smoking a lot of weed and drinking a lot of wine—until she killed him.
Because, behind the free-spirited commune façade, her ex-boyfriend Alex had been “a crazy psychopath who used to build explosives,” Gabi reportedly told one of her later tenants. Testifying in court, the lodger recalled finding parts of a love swing, and other paraphernalia in the basement of what is now being called the “Haarer Mordhaus,” the death house of Haar. Alexander smoked five grams of weed a day, and Gabi smoked, too, but mainly, she said, “to numb myself.”
After a fight in December 2008, she kicked Alex out of the house. But when he tried to come back hours later, she opened the door for him.
Later in the evening, the couple went up to the attic, where they had their bed. Alexander grabbed his pair of swim goggles, taped over so that he couldn’t see, and ordered Gabi to tie him up. She did just that, and then, grabbing a circular saw, which just so happened to be lying nearby (“for renovation purposes,” according to Gabi’s defense). As the saw whirred to life, she cut into her boyfriend’s chest and through his collarbones—most likely he was dead by the time she moved the saw upwards to saw off his head.
An early photograph of the couple shows a delicate looking, bespectacled Alexander looming behind Gabi, who is confidently grinning into the camera. Perhaps Alexander really was a “sleeping pill,” completely boring, as one of his friends described him to investigators, adding that, in fact, Gabi was the one with the hot temper.
When the police showed up at her door at six in the morning in January last year, Gabi was, according to the head investigator, “considerably impressed and surprised.” No wonder— she’d gotten away with the killing for the better part of a decade.
At that point, Alexander’s parents weren’t looking for him anymore. After initially going to the police and hiring a detective, they sought comfort in a lie told to them by Gabi: that Alexander wanted to break off all contact to home and had run away to Romania with a new girlfriend.
Since the killing, Gabi continued to drift from unfinished degree to unfinished degree and to live in the attic of the Mordhaus with Christian. Her lodger said that they’d attempt various creative projects, making music or planning to build a greenhouse in the garden, but not much came of them.
Gabi and Christian had a Buddhist wedding in the back yard in 2015 (presumably not far from Alexander’s unmarked grave) and then went on their honeymoon to India. After that, according to the lodger, Gabi “came out of her shell.” She used to dye her hair black or pink and she wore pantaloons on which she’d sewn little bells.
In court, Gabi looks older than 32, although her face is round and her expression childlike. She is quite chubby, wearing a gray blazer that’s too tight and a pair of practical glasses like the ones you get at the supermarket.
Christian has a powerful build and a lot of piercings. According to the testimony of neighbors he used to practice throwing knives in the garden. Some mean-spirited court observers have said he resembles “a human bulldog.” He has already been sentenced to two years and eight months in prison for wrapping Alexander’s remains in foil and burying them in the yard.
“She was more in the background and let Christian make the decisions,” is how one friend has described their relationship. Indeed, it was Christian who, more than once, tried to creep out acquaintances with the tale of how Gabi sawed up her ex.
“We are murderers,” Christian drunkenly confessed to the couple’s lodger—the latter was less drunk, too intimidated to ask further questions (he was, he told the judge, also worried that his friendship was being “tested“), but he was shocked enough to tell his girlfriend, who told a friend, who went straight to the police.
Upon entering the house last January, cops had noted the scent of burning incense sticks failing to flush out the overriding smell of mold.
Gabi confessed to everything on the spot. She motioned vaguely at the overgrown garden and said quietly that Alexander was somewhere “outside by the compost.”