One of my (many…) obsessions in true crime is the devastating, still unsolved murder of Tristan Brübach in 1998. After a life of tragic setbacks, the boy was murdered in the city of Frankfurt in a shockingly brutal way.
Below is my interview with the folks behind this excellent website dedicated to the case. Their site is proof that more and more of the very best, most reliable research and writing these days can be found on the internet.
Thank you, webmasters of the site, for your time! And rest in peace, Tristan.
Who are you? Tell us a bit about yourself!
We are a group of private persons from Germany who did not know Tristan personally. We want to stay anonymous because we don’t want to be the center of attention, it should be all about Tristan. Furthermore, we are often confronted with threats and insults as not everyone likes what we do. Since Tristan’s parents have passed away, we have made it our goal to preserve his memory with dignity and to draw attention to his fate – in the hope that the circumstances of his murder will be resolved after all and his murderer will be caught. We do not serve any commercial or industrial purpose and we work voluntarily. We have expertise in Social Media and web design. We pursue the case for many years and started to administer the Facebook page in 2017. Finally, Tristan’s fate still touches so many people all around the world that we now have our own website, a YouTube channel and a Pinterest account about Tristan’s murder case.
How did you first heart about Tristan’s murder?
I think I first heart about it in 1998, when he was murdered. The press has reported about it all over Germany.
In your words: who was Tristan Brübach?
Unfortunately, we didn’t know Tristan personally. Some persons that knew him got in touch with us via Facebook and told us, that he was a quiet, friendly boy. He was a normal 13-year-old teenager who was interested in video games, soccer and spend a lot of time with his pet, a rabbit.
What kind of a family background did he come from?
Tristan was born in 1984 in suburbs of Frankfurt, Germany. He was an only child. His mother committed suicide when he was 10 years old. His father then needed to finance himself and Tristan, so he worked shifts at Frankfurt Main Station. Tristan spend a lot of time with his grandmother and learned to be autonomous. He often spend time alone in the area around the train station where he was murdered 3 years after his mothers’ death.
How did his mother’s death affect him?
He was only 10 years old, so surely, it wasn’t easy for him. People who knew Tristan say, he processed it relatively well, but all in all, he was a quiet boy who was always looking for love. It cannot the ruled out that he came in contact with older men such as the offender or with a criminal environment around the train station without becoming part of that environment.
What was he like at school? Was he bullied?
His teachers remember him as friendly, normal and inconspicuous. He himself tried to avoid any conflicts, but he was attacked by other teenagers and even robbed.
What was his relationship with his father like?
Tristan’s father described the relationship to his son as a normal relationship between a father and a teenager. Of course, there had been a little quarrel from time to time, but within the normal range as Tristan was a teenager. Tristan’s father died in 2014 and it is said that the murder of his son broke him.
The day of the murder. What happened on that day, before the murder? Was it a normal day for Tristan otherwise?
Tristan was murdered on Thursday, 26 March 1998, an ordinary school day. He planned to go to the doctor that morning because his back ached but then first went to school after all. His teacher gave him permission to leave school at 1:30 pm to go to the doctor, so we know that he left the school earlier than his classmates. They saw him getting onto a bus near the school, driving in the direction of Höchst (a suburb of Frankfurt) railway station.
Who was the last person to see Tristan alive? Where did he/she see Tristan?
Around 3:20 pm Tristan was last seen alive by a female witness as he was sitting on a park bench in the Bruno-Asch-Park near Frankfurt Höchst station. He patted the dog of the witness. Probably between around 3:20 and 3:30 PM Tristan must have left in the western direction toward the southern entrance of the Liederbach tunnel. The tunnel is underneath a train-overpass and was often used as shortcut at that time. The tunnel was “hidden” below some shrubs. The distance between the Park and the southern entrance of the tunnel is about 100 meters (110 yards), which means about 5 minutes walk. It is unknown whether Tristan first meets his still unidentified murderer near the tunnel. But police is sure that Tristan knew his murderer. They cannot asses the intimacy of the relationship however. The investigators assume that Tristan’s meeting with the perpetrator that day was possibly prearranged and that he voluntarily went to the tunnel with him.
How did the murder itself happen? How was Tristan killed?
Tristan died at the southern entrance of the Liederbach tunnel. After heavy violence in the form of blows to his face, the unkown perpetrator strangled Tristan in a stranglehold until he lost consciousness. Finally, he cut Tristan’s throat, almost decapitating him. He let the body bleed out in the Liederbach (that’s a small stream that passed through the tunnel). The murderer then pulled Tristan’s lifeless body into the tunnel. There he removed skin and muscle tissue from the buttocks and thighs with precise cuts using a knife. He also removed the testicles by performing a professional cut along the pubic bone.
Instead of leaving the scene after the murder, the perpetrator placed the body on the concrete base inside the tunnel. He pulled the jacket over Tristan’s head so that his face was covered. The offender also pulled Tristan’s trousers back up and placed the shoes on hips and thighs to hide the cuts. It is unclear what his intention was. He then emptied Tristan’s school bag and left a fingerprint in Tristan’s blood on one of his school books. He might have transported the extracted body parts in the school bag which the tool with him, this could not be proven without doubt, though. The offender probably needed about 15 to 20 minutes for the whole procedure.
There were eyewitnesses to the killing who saw the killer. Who were these eyewitnesses? What did they see?
Around 3:30 pm three teenagers wanted to use the tunnel as a shortcut to the station. As they where entering the tunnel an the North entrance they saw a male person bending over something on the concrete pedestal and they decided to rather take the long route.
What did the killer look like?
The police assume that the youngsters were watching the murderer commit his crime without realizing what they were witnessing. They gave the police a first personal description. Only the police know the details. We assume that they didn’t saw many details or characteristics because the place in the tunnel where Tristan’s body was found was pitch-dark even in the daytime. They only saw a silhouette.
Who found the body?
Around 4:00 pm two children who were planning to cross the tunnel discovered Tristan’s body and alarmed a grown-up. The person went to the crime scene himself to verify the story, therefore an ermergency call to the police was not issued until 5:00 pm.
There was a big manhunt for the killer. Tell us about this!
In the initial phase, about 100 to 150 detectives were assigned to the case. The police carried out investigations in Tristan’s surroundings and throughout Germany as well as in other European countries, North America and Asia. In order to compare murder cases with a similar patterns of injuries worldwide, the police have worked together with experts from the FBI in Virginia, USA, and with investigators from Europol, among others. To date, no case with an injury pattern resembling Tristan’s is known anywhere in the world. To date, the police have processed over 23,000 leads.
Is it true that a Czech language guide to travelling Germany was found that was probably connected to the murder?
Yes, that’s possible. Tristan’s murderer emptied Tristan’s backpack at the scene of crime and might have taken it to transport some parts of Tristan’s body parts which he had removed. But this could not be proven beyond doubt. In 1999, almost exactly a year after Tristan’s murder, police secured Tristan’s backpack in a forest. This was about 22 miles distant from the crime scene. There was a map of Germany in Czech and a blue garbage in the backpack. Czech workers lives close to the site at the time, building railroad tracks for the Intercity Express. Subsequent police investigations in Eastern Europe, for instance in Prague television, led to nothing. There are no indications who left the backpack where it was found. It could be an unknown person or the offender.
Is it true that the killer made a phone call to the police?
One day after Tristan’s funeral, an unidentified male person called the police and claimed to be Tristan’s murderer. When the police arrived at the railway station near the crime scene, where the person waited for them, he had disappeared. The person could never be identified. To date, the police doesn’t attach particular importance to the caller and classifies him as a copycat.
Over the years, who have been the most promising suspects the police have had?
The truth is, there have been no promising suspects at all. There have been some men who resembled the facial composite, but in the end, none of them was a promising suspect. In 2017, the police checked a connection to the serial killer Manfred Seel and stated officially that Seel had been excluded as a suspect. There were likewise no indications of a connection to Christian Brueckner, the Maddie McCann suspect.
Do you have a “favorite suspect”?
Both us and the police are sure that the facial composite shows Tristan’s murderer. The so called “Ponytail Man” was seen by several witnesses in different places around the crime scene. The police are searching a man with an injury to the upper lip (a scar or an orofacial cleft) who could be between 40 and 60 years old today and who has a relation to the city Frankfurt. You can checkout the facial composite here: https://mordfall-tristan.de/en/facial-composite/ [photo is also below. -admin]
What is the status of the case currently? Are the police still actively investigating it?
The case is a cold case so the police doesn’t actively investigate it at the moment. If new material is brought to light, the police will follow it up. The case will not be closed. In Germany, murder has no statute of limitations.
Do you think the case will ever be solved?
To be honest, it does not really look good. Although there’s a DNA trace, this can only be evaluated genetically to a limited extent, as there are too few DNA systematic features for a serial genetic test or new DNA analysis techniques. Furthermore there’s no promising suspect. Nevertheless we will never surrender and continue to commemorate Tristan. It cannot be ruled out that one day, someone will contact the police and give them relevant information. It could be, though, that the offender still has confidants.
Is there anything I forgot to ask about that you would like to add?
There have been some incidents concerning Tristan’s grave that should be mentioned: One and a half years after Tristan’s murder, in 1999, a still unidentified person went to Tristan’s grave. This person carefully digs out the flowers on the grave and lays them down next to it. Then the stranger unfolds a plastic tarpaulin on which to place the exvacated earth, “nice and neatly” separated from the clay. Then he digs about 1.3 yards deep (1.2 meters) not reaching the coffin so he cannot open it. It seems very likely that he was disturbed and fled. Is is one possible theory of the police that it might have been Tristan’s murderer.
In 2018, 20 years after Tristan’s death, the so-called rest period of the grave expired. This is a completely normal procedure in Germany and applies to all graves, whether Tristan’s parents are still alive or not. We and other people came together to build a new memorial for Tristan in the immediate vicinity of the grave. It was inaugurated on 26 March 2018, the 20th anniversary of Tristan’s death, with a memorial service.
I would like to beg you that you should not believe anything you read about Tristan on the internet! For example, Tristan’s english Wikipedia entry contains many mistakes. The Daily Mail wrote that Tristan was raped and tortured, which is absolutely not true. In Germany, too, there are countless conspiracy theories about the case and they are nonsense. We can guarantee that our website’s content corresponds to the facts as it was checked by the police. If there are any news, you can find them here: https://mordfall-tristan.de/en/news/
Here are the questions sent to me by followers of my Instagram and readers of this blog:
“What do you think caused the extreme nature of the violence?“
We really don’t know as this is one of the most mysterious aspects of the progression of events. Investigators assume that the offender wanted to kill Tristan quickly in order to carry ou his fantasies and get the body parts. Behind these mutilations of the corpse, the police suspect a sexual motive in the cannibalistic realm and thus a perpetrator with highly disturbed sexuality. As regards the heavy violence in the form of blows to Tristan’s face, nobody knows the offender’s reasons. No one knows if there was a conflict, a discussion or any other events between Tristan and the offender right before the murder.
“Was the fingerprint ever analyzed? Could it possibly be analyzed with today’s technology?“
The fingerprint is the most important trace in this case. It had to be digitally processed so that it could be used for comparison. A comparative database search with fingerprints from over 70 countries yielded no result. In 2002, a mass screening was carried out with a scope previously unheard of in Germany. More than 14,000 men from different parts of Frankfurt took part voluntarily. The 54 “conscentious objectors” who refused to give their fingerprints and over 800 men who had moved away from the area after the murder were also checked, but unfortunately without success.
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