Real Crime - - Contents - Words Mar­tyn Con­te­rio

Pub­lish­ers weren’t in­ter­ested in Richard Klinkhamer’s book on spousal mur­der, un­til his miss­ing wife fi­nally turned up – buried in a back gar­den


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

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