Active: 1952 to 1954
Method of Disposal: Poisoning with E605 (Parathion)
Consequence: Life Imprisonment
- Karl Lehmann (husband)
- Kathe Lehmann (mother-in-law)
- Valentin Lehmann (father-in-law)
- Annie Hamann (best friend)
- Annie’s dog
- Eva Ruh (Annie Hamann’s mother)
- Several of Eva Ruh’s neighbours
Christa loved a good funeral. They brought family and friends together, the food was always delicious and plentiful, and best of all, black was such a slimming color. It was a nice feeling, too, when the guest of honour at such an event wasn’t someone Christa had particularly cared much for.
Truth be known, she didn’t really get along with a lot of people she knew. She hadn’t been given much reason to like anyone. Her father had turned away from everything but alcohol after her mother died in a mental institution. Christa was essentially left to look after herself from an early age.
Christa had hoped to find a decent man when she was old enough to marry. Instead she found Karl Lehmann, who was identical to her father in both looks and manner. Soon she realised that Karl was even more enamoured with the bottle than her father had been. As the novelty of marriage quickly wore off, Christa realised she had two sub-standard father figures in her life. Soon even the fun of adultery couldn’t fill her needs. Her husband was always drinking so much; if he had heard the rumours, he hid it well. Or used it as an excuse to further drown himself.
Christa now wished the drinking would do him in. But the years went by, and Karl stubbornly remained alive. She began to think that maybe the inevitable just needed a helping hand. She had been using a new pesticide in the garden, and had found it to be relatively effective in its intended purpose. Perhaps the same rule could be applied here. As it was colourless and odourless, Karl would not suspect. Whether it was alcohol or parathion, it’s all poison in the end.
It had also been a while since the last funeral she’d attended, and Christa would be glad to get out of the house for once.
By September 1952 Christa was a widow and had thought she would be free to come and go as she pleased. However, she still had some baggage left over from the marriage; her late husband’s mother and father. She had assumed that with Karl gone, Kathe and Valentin Lehmann would go on their way. However, by the New Year it was becoming clear that intervention would once again be required. Kathe obligingly expired in January of that year, and Valentin quite suddenly and unexpectedly toppled off his bicycle in the middle of Main Street the following September. He’d just left home, having enjoyed a dessert prepared by Christa.
Christa was pleased with the success of her plan. As a red-blooded woman with newfound freedom, she began to enjoy the company of a number of American soldiers. Through her associations with the soldiers she soon met a woman named Annie, who’d lost her own husband in the war. They became close friends. Annie’s mother Eva, with whom Annie was residing, was not happy with the friendship. She didn’t like Christa and would voice such an opinion loudly and with great regularity, as any mother worth her salt would. Christa was none too pleased about this, but endured for the sake of her friend for as long as she could.
Not for too long, though. Thinking Eva might be won over by a thoughtful gift, she one day presented the woman with a beautiful chocolate truffle. In post-war Germany, such delicacies were rare. As a good will gesture, some of Eva’s neighbours were also given the same treat. Christa made sure to present one of the truffles to Eva herself; she had prepared it especially.
Eva accepted the offering, but didn’t eat it straight away. Instead she placed it into the fridge for later. As it turned out, Eva would not get a chance to try the truffle. Annie came home from work and opened the fridge. A few minutes later, she was lying on the floor alongside her pet dog, who had rushed to gobble up some of the chocolate that fell from Annie’s grasp and suffered the same fate.
Unlike the others, Annie’s death couldn’t be so easily pinned on natural causes. The authorities took a long look at Christa, as they had concluded that the chocolate was involved. Initially she was dismissed as there seemed little reason for her to kill her best friend. However, similarities were drawn between Annie’s death and the death of her father-in-law, which had been just as sudden.
Exhumations abounded. Christa’s poison of choice was discovered in all of her dearly departed, as well as in Annie’s beloved dog. When pressed for an explanation, Christa eventually confessed. “I don’t suppose I should have done it. But with the exception of Annie, they were all nasty people.”
Despite the defence’s plea that Christa was ‘morally primitive,’ the jury’s verdict was guilty. Christa was sentenced to life, the highest sentence the judge was able to give. Christa spent the following 23 years in prison, periodically attempting suicide without much success. Presumably, Parathion was in short supply where she was incarcerated, and Christa had never been terribly adept at the more manual killing mechanisms. After she was released, authorities in their infinite wisdom surmised that the best course of action when dealing with Christa was to provide her with a new identity and send her merrily on her way. Hmmm.
Christa’s own killings stopped at four people and a dog. However, the publicity of her case sparked great interest in her choice of poison. Indeed, a score of murders and dozens of suicides were carried out using Parathion. This quite possibly makes her the most prolific unintentional mass killer in recent memory. It just goes to prove that there are some things only the Germans can perfect.