7 WAYS TO KILL YOUR WIFE
Publishers weren’t interested in Richard Klinkhamer’s book on spousal murder, until his missing wife finally turned up – buried in a back garden
AUTHOR RICHARD KLINKHAMER KILLED HIS WIFE DURING A HEATED ROW. SOME TIME LATER, HE BEGAN APPROACHING PUBLISHERS WITH A MACABRE BOOK HE’D WRITTEN – ABOUT A HUSBAND WHO MURDERS HIS SPOUSE
s a premise, it reads like something straight out of a classic Hollywood thriller by Alfred Hitchcock or Fritz Lang, boasting echoes too of the infamous Leopold and Loeb trial, two young men who concocted and carried out what they believed to be the perfect crime. Richard Klinkhamer did not plot his wife’s death – it was provoked by drunken rage and likely a deep- seated angst related to his childhood. But he was intellectually arrogant ( like Leopold and Loeb) and his literary daring in the aftermath shows it.
In 1991 the well- respected ( if inconsistently talented) Dutch novelist killed his wife, buried her in the garden, used compost to disguise the smell of the rotting corpse, and got away with it for lack of evidence. Instead of lying low, he brazenly set about writing a book, a strange work indeed that, when finished ( it wasn’t published until 2007), served as part- memoir, part- fiction and part- confession. Original drafts shopped around to publishers in the 1990s offered an enticing hook to the reader: a set of different scenarios ( seven in total) imagining ways in which he might have dispatched his wife. The author- killer then added a final, bleakly comic touch. He titled his latest effort Woensdag Gehaktdag ( Wednesday, Mince Day). Derived from the country’s tradition of eating specific foods on days of the week – for example mincemeat was eaten on Wednesdays – the pun- style title referenced a chapter where the victim is chopped up, put through a meat grinder and the bits and
pieces fed to pigeons.
Richard Klinkhamer beat his wife Hannelore to death with an iron bar on Wednesday 30 January 1991. Though he would revise his book in prison, several versions with the older premise circulated among crime writers and became an underground publishing phenomenon. Once the truth was out, he could not really stick with the initial direction. Instead, he infused it with passages of surprising sensitivity and moments tinged with regret. Woensdag Gehaktdag was transformed into something profound and even more personal, yet the brutal title remained, for what could be purely shock value. Once Klinkhamer ‘ crossed the Rubicon’ by committing an act of killing, he could tread where crime authors have rarely, if ever, ventured before: drawing from direct experience of killing as the perpetrator.
The expression ‘ truth is stranger than fiction’ is most apt in this case. Klinkhamer not only got away with the slaying of his wife for almost a decade, but in the intervening years he continued to live on the property, knowing full well there was a corpse buried beneath the garden shed. In the tiny hamlet he called home, in the small lowland country’s northeast corner, neighbours started to gossip, airing their suspicions about their eccentric neighbour: many of them swore he had killed his wife Hannelore. Yet despite this they remained on friendly terms with him for the duration. Klinkhamer, at one point, received prank phone calls, in which the caller told him they knew he was guilty. Stories whirled around that he’d fed his wife into a meat grinder and placed the bits and pieces inside one of his garden ornaments ( Klinkhamer built art objects for his garden). Police, when they searched the property, took away a meat grinder, meat hooks and butcher’s knives, adding fuel to the rumours and maybe even inspiring his book.
The police pegged him as the chief suspect in the disappearance, but searches of the house and garden revealed nothing. Not even cadaver dogs could sniff out the carefully concealed body. Detectives did their rounds of interrogations, but the husband repeatedly denied any knowledge of Hannelore’s whereabouts. Her bicycle was found upright on the wall of a local train station at Winschoten, making it look as if she’d travelled somewhere and, maybe, met her untimely
In Woensdag Gehaktdag, he wrote, ‘ My wife has disappeared. I am not distraught, because I have
killed her myself’
above Richard Klinkhamer was a killer and an author, who tried to utilise his deadly exploit as inspiration for a book, revelling in his notoriety while police failed to find enough evidence to charge him