Macabre details of a neo-Nazi who attempted to incinerate the remains of one of his murder victims in a portable gas oven have emerged in the closing stages of a trial which has shocked Germany.
Till-Hauke Heldt, 32, whose father was a member of the Hitler Youth, has been nicknamed “the Intelligent Beast” by the German press for his alleged role in the murders of an Indian asylum seeker and a German businessman, and his murder of a prostitute.
In the 1990s, Heldt led a neo-Nazi skinhead gang that attacked foreigners in the German town of Guetersloh. In evidence, he complained that as a child he was brutalised by his father, who beat him regularly for what were trivial misdemeanours.
The trial of Heldt, a failed entrepreneur, and his alleged accomplice, Tim Schuler – each blames the other – is expected to conclude this week, and if convicted both face life sentences.
It is the account of Heldt’s murder of his third victim, however, a prostitute for whose death he has already been convicted, and his effort to dispose of her body in an oven, which have gripped Germany during the new trial in Bremen.
His final undoing was his decision to return the malfunctioning oven to the engineer who had built it – and who, suspicious of the stench of burnt flesh, tipped off the police.
His victim, Yvonne Polzin, 31, worked in a brothel set up by Heldt in the late 1990s, and often had sex with him. When his wife learned of her existence, however, Heldt was apparently so ashamed that he decided to get rid of his mistress.
He approached an engineer, known throughout the trial as “Frank M”, and asked him to construct a steel oven, 5ft long and tubular in shape, saying that one of his relatives wanted to use it for cooking.
In September 2001, Heldt lured Miss Polzin to a holiday home on the German Baltic coast with the promise of a romantic weekend. The couple travelled in a rented van, with the portable crematorium lying in pieces in the back.
When they arrived, Miss Polzin decorated the bed with an array of sweets, laid out in the shape of a heart – only to be attacked and strangled there by the man she had thought loved her.
Heldt’s first attempt to get his portable crematorium working failed, however, when the oven refused to light, and he spent much of the evening making phone calls to Frank M seeking his advice. The engineer suggested buying and installing a new gas jet, which – with Schuler’s help – Heldt did next day. It was to no avail, however, and it took further calls to Frank M, adjustments to the oven’s gas and air supplies, and improvements to its insulation, before it finally worked.
At this point Heldt and Schuler began cremating Miss Polzin’s body – only for the oven to begin belching black smoke, and promptly going out again.
By now despairing of the prospects for incineration, the two instead hacked the remains of Polzin’s corpse into pieces, minced them up and buried them before driving back to Dusseldorf to ask Frank M to help them break the oven up. Suspicious of the pungent smell, the engineer told the police.
It was a straightforward matter to assemble the evidence and convict them, and Heldt is already serving one life sentence for that crime. Police, meanwhile, have reopened their files on two other unsolved murders – they suspect the two men are linked to the deaths of Sanjib Kumar Shrestha, an Indian asylum seeker, in 1995 and Reinhard Wojciechowski, a German businessman, the following year. Heldt is accused of murdering Mr Shrestha, whose submerged body was found in a disused gravel pit in 2001, after discovering that his then girlfriend was having an affair with the Indian migrant.
Mr Wojciechowski, who was found shot in the head in a car park in Dusseldorf, is said by prosecutors to have been murdered as part of an elaborate insurance policy fiddle by the two. Heldt, both of whose parents are doctors, and Schuler are said by prosecutors to have been driven by a combination of motives including a hatred of foreigners, financial greed and fear of being exposed for running a brothel.
The two men found a common purpose in murder despite their different upbringings. Although Heldt claimed to have been beaten for minor infractions of family rules, Schuler was a pupil at one of Germany’s most liberal-minded schools, and claims that his background made him open to the world.