Gustav Müller (serial killer)

Gustav Carl Friedrich Müller[n 1] (born 1865 in Germany - date of death unknown; in Rotterdam, Netherlands) was a German bigamist, murderer and self-confessed serial killer. When he surrendered himself to the police, Müller confessed to killing his wife and son, as well as his parents and other wives around the world.[1] Only the murders of his wife and son were proven, but taking his insanity into consideration, Müller was acquitted by reason of insanity and sent off to a mental institution, where he presumably died.[2]

Gustav Müller
Gustav Carl Friedrich Müller

Criminal penaltyAcquitted by reason of insanity
Span of crimes
CountryNetherlands, possibly others
State(s)South Holland
Date apprehended
1897 (surrendered)

Early life and travelsEdit

Not much is known about Müller's early life, aside the fact that he was born in an unspecified location in Germany, with his father being a foreman at the Prussian state railways. In 1888, he married a woman whom later gave birth to a son, the family residing in Berlin. Müller, a skilled artisan who worked as a watchmaker and gold miner, went bankrupt in January 1890, and quickly abandoned his wife. He travelled around the world, visiting many countries and supposedly marrying many women. Near the end of 1891, Müller was in India, riding an elephant, when he suddenly fell off the animal. Due to his injuries, he was placed in hospital for some time for treatment of epileptic seizures and an unspecified mental condition, from which, by his own admission, he never fully recovered.[3]

Imprisonment in EnglandEdit

In March 1893, Müller boarderd a ship from India towards England, passing through France on the way. The penniless watchmaker landed at Dover, and at the end of March, he found himself in London. A police constable named Ridgway found the man wandering around Southwark on March 30, taking Müller to the St. George's Workhouse on Mint Street. There, Müller, speaking in German because he didn't know or understand English, explained to the doctor various fascinating tales, as well as professing that he butchered his parents, wife and several children. Most peculiarly, at times he even claimed that he had killed over 4,000 people, and that the police were hunting him down, with intent to kill. His insane claims led the doctor to procure a certificate, with which Müller was sent away to the London County Lunatic Asylum in Banstead, on April 15, 1893.[3] While in Banstead, his presence puzzled staff, as examinations proved that Müller was a healthy and mostly stable personality, not counting his suicidal thoughts, with no sign of any epileptic fits at all. He was considered a well-behaved patient, doing any task given without hesitation, but his perseverance in not understanding English, which hampered any investigation into his past, led to a medical student by the name of Dr. Shaw, who spoke fluent German and French, to question Müller.[3]

While interviewed by Shaw, Müller explained his incident in India, and also took time to complain about the doctor from St. George's, whom claimed that he had seen him talk to himself in a strange manner. Shaw noted that while Müller spoke clearly and intelligently, was thorough and pretty genuine about having no friends in England, the claim that he was unmarried was not believed. In May 1893, the secretary of the Prussian state railways sent a letter to Shaw, from Müller's family, in which they were eager to know if their loved one was suffering from an incurable disease.[3] The good doctor replied positively to the question, as Müller's mental health seemingly improved, so much so that on June 22, 1893, a committee of visitors approved his release as "fully recovered". Shortly following his discharge, track of Müller was lost, but he soon resurfaced and sent off to Germany as a pauper. He returned to Berlin, managed to convince his wife to take him back and to restore the family to what it was. Müller also expressed interest in returning to his old line of work, and to finally settle down in life.[3]

Murder of Margaret Müller and sonEdit

However, the happiness did not last long. Towards the end of 1895, Gustav sent away his wife away to a circus one evening, taking time to steal 1,600 Deutsche Mark that she had inherited. He then fled with Margaret Hanneman and her 1-year-old son, whom was secretly Gustav's child, settling first in Amsterdam, before moving to Rotterdam. In both places, the family lived off the stolen money, but Müller still managed to get employment as a well-respected watchmaker.[3]

In October 1897, while cleaning mussels for the lunch meal, Müller suddenly heard a voice telling him to cut his wife's throat. Feeling compelled to do that, he slashed Margaret's throat, nearly decapitating her, before repeating the process with his son.[3] Realising what he had just done, he cut off both ears of the corpses, and quickly went towards the police station.[1]

Arrest, confession and acquittalEdit

Müller dashed into a police station, approached an on-duty officer, and exclaimed that he had just murdered his wife and child. When questioned on how he had done it, Gustav explained to the policeman, but thinking that he was either crazy or a drunkard, the officer laughed. Enraged, Müller pulled out the bloodied ears, and said that if they want to confirm his story, they should go to his house. He was arrested on the spot, while the Police Department Chief Strang and two other policemen quickly travelled towards the confessed killer's house. Upon arrival, they found Mrs. Müller and the young boy's bodies, both nearly decapitated, and the room splattered with blood.[3]

Chief Strang then returned to the station, and placed Müller under examination. Without hesitation, Gustav explained that he had murdered not just them, but also his parents, other wives and an uncertain number of children. After he finished confessing, he stood silent, refusing to eat anything, as he viewed that was his only viable attempt at suicide. The police considered his story as credible, suspecting that other murders were committed in the Orient. However, nothing could be confirmed with certainty, and his parents were found to be still living in Germany.[3] On December 2, 1897, the District Court of Rotterdam acquitted Müller by reason of insanity, and sent him off to an unspecified asylum, where it is presumed he later died.[2]

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ First name also spelled 'Gustave'


  1. ^ a b "A Murderer's Confession". The Evening Herald. October 8, 1897.
  2. ^ a b "Said He Killed 18 Persons". The Sun (New York City). December 2, 1897.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Slew Fourteen Wives". Waterbury Evening Democrat. November 9, 1897.