Crime: Scene of the crime in a residential building - dealing with polluted real estate

For some, they appear eerie and deterrent, for others they are magically attracted: houses in which deadly crimes once took place are often clinging to the dark events for a long time.

Crime: Scene of the crime in a residential building - dealing with polluted real estate

For some, they appear eerie and deterrent, for others they are magically attracted: houses in which deadly crimes once took place are often clinging to the dark events for a long time. This was also the case with the former estate where Armin Meiwes, known as the "Cannibal of Rotenburg", lived before his imprisonment.

In 2001, he killed an Internet acquaintance in the house, dismembered it and ate parts of the body. The dilapidated half-timbered property in a small district of Rotenburg an der Fulda stood empty for a long time. Now, after a fire a few days ago, all that is left of the property is a pile of burnt furniture and rubble, as Mayor Sylvia Schellhase says. How the property will continue is open.

One thing is certain: if houses or apartments become the scene of murder or other high-profile crimes, this can severely reduce your chances of selling, for example. Some people feel a certain rejection, are afraid or do not feel comfortable in such properties, says the spokesman for the real estate association IVD Mitte, Frank Alexander. Some of them will then be for sale for years, which puts pressure on the price. "In extreme cases, they can also be unsaleable," says Alexander. But there are also interested parties who don't care about the history and who also access such an object - that's a matter of attitude and the range is large.

With apricot paint

For example, the "horror house" in Amstetten, Austria, where one of the most unbelievable crimes in criminal history had previously taken place found a new owner: for 24 years, the electrical engineer Josef Fritzl kept his own daughter as a slave in a cellar dungeon and fathered her seven children. A few years after the crime was discovered, an innkeeper bought the house and rented out the apartments after a thorough renovation and an apricot paint job for the house. "You can't leave it empty forever. We have to bring life into it," said the new owner at the time.

How far the perspectives diverge is also shown in legal disputes about affected real estate: In 2022, the district court of Coburg decided that a house seller did not have to point out that a crime had once happened in her property. The court thus dismissed the lawsuit of a buyer who in 2018 bought the house in which a woman and her small child were murdered 20 years earlier. The plaintiff found out about the crime after the purchase and wanted to reverse the deal because of fraudulent misrepresentation.

From their point of view, the saleswoman should have pointed out the double murder from earlier times even without an explicit request. However, the Coburg district court did not see any fraudulent deception - also because the double murder was so long ago. In addition, the seller only found out about the crime after she bought the house in 2004 - and she didn't mind the history of the property.

jurisprudence on a case-by-case basis

The Frankfurt lawyer Andreas Hübner advises sellers to point out such incidents. With a note in the purchase contract that the buyer has knowledge of a crime in the past, you are on the safe side, says the lawyer specializing in real estate law. "This gives the seller the security that no fraudulently concealed defect will be found." The jurisprudence on this subject is based on the individual case and is primarily based on which crime happened in a house or apartment and how long ago the crime was committed.

Basically, residential buildings and apartments are among the most common crime scenes. In Hesse, for example, according to police crime statistics, there were 243 cases of crimes against life last year, including 194 attempted and 49 completed crimes. According to the State Criminal Police Office, these included cases of bodily harm resulting in death and murder, as well as murder in connection with robbery or a sexual offence, manslaughter and minor manslaughter. Criminalists refer to such crimes as "crude crimes". Of the 49 completed crimes, 12 occurred in apartment buildings, making them the most frequently listed crime scenes, followed by the street crime scene with 8 cases and single-family houses with 5 cases.

Crime scene cleaners remove last traces

So-called crime scene cleaners remove the traces of a crime. The specialized building cleaners are usually commissioned by landlords, property management companies, property owners, relatives or by the probate court, as Benjamin Molitor from the crime scene cleaning team explains. The company, headquartered in Mainz (Rhineland-Palatinate), operates nationwide. The employees use special cleaning agents and methods to remove bodily fluids, tissue and blood.

According to Molitor, how difficult it is to clean a crime scene depends primarily on how long the scene of the crime was closed to police investigations or how long a body was lying there. "If corpse fluid and blood are already deeply drawn in, then the floor usually has to be removed, as well as sometimes the ceilings, walls, and wooden doors and windows."

Getting the smell of the corpse out takes at least four weeks, sometimes two to four months. "You actually get every crime scene back somehow. It's just a question of cost," says Molitor. After a murder, for example, cleaning costs between 2,000 and 4,000 euros. If the corpse was lying there for a long time, the costs started at 10,000 euros.