The Strange Case of Tristan Bruebach and Manfred Seel

I first learned about Tristan Bruebach on Reddit’s Unresolved Mysteries about two years ago.  The case of the thirteen year old boy brutally murdered in a water tunnel that ran under a roadway was so outrageous and upsetting that it surprised me that it had not filtered out to English-speaking true crime buffs.  Tristan’s murder had elements that initially reminded me of The Family murders in Australia, but I’d never seen all the elements of Tristan Bruebach’s murder anywhere else.  It was a crime that to me was very much sui generis, and later analysis from German investigators echoed my opinion.  Nowhere on Earth have we seen another murder like Tristan’s.

I don’t have a lot of time for Reddit these days but I go back from time to time and I somehow managed to visit Unresolved Mysteries on the same day last year when someone posted that the police had a suspect in the murder of Tristan Bruebach.  Eager to learn the motives behind the murder, I read up on the suspect – Manfred Seel – and was initially very skeptical.  The investigation into Manfred Seel itself seemed odd to me.  Seel is accused of murdering two female coworkers in the 1970s, two female prostitutes in the 1990s, another female prostitute in the 2000s, and school boy Tristan in 1998.  It was hard to see how this one man could be linked to murders of two women he worked with, then have 20 years of inactivity followed by two murders of prostitutes, with a gap of several years until he killed Tristan.  The time frame is problematic, and the killings involved vastly different victim pools.

As mentioned already, Tristan’s murder was very unusual.  More on that later but it can be said that it’s not unexpected that a killer who preys on female coworkers is a different killer than a man who selects prostitutes as victims, and both killers would be different than a person who kills pre-pubescent boys.  As I began reading about Manfred Seel I found myself surprised because the more I read, the more I could understand how it is that the German police reached the conclusions they did.  I am unsure if I wholly buy that Seel murdered Tristan, but the authorities make a compelling case and I hope eventually more information comes to light.

Originally I thought I was going to be writing about how stupid I found the accusations pinning Seel as Tristan’s killer but after spending a couple of months scouring the Internet, whether or not I think Seel is responsible for Tristan’s murder is irrelevant.  Even if Seel is not Tristan’s killer, the fact is that now both names are linked together – it’s hard to discuss Tristan without discussing Seel.  It’s even harder for me to discuss Seel without discussing Tristan.  Tristan’s case is bizarre and what happened to him, and later his family, is tragic.  His case was marred with misinformation about his life, salacious rumors that were, irritatingly, repeated by the German press without a lick of proof, and even brought up in the Reddit thread about Tristan.  Seel’s story is similarly strange, with unexpected behaviors, foul deeds and even fouler implications.

Obtaining all this information was difficult because so much of it is in the German language.  In the end, I was pretty impressed at how much Google Translate has improved over the years, but it’s daunting for English-speakers who are just casually interested in the case to tackle all those news articles and to sort the good from the bad, to find articles that have fresh news and aren’t just a retelling of older information, updated with a bit of new information tacked on at the end.  Since I spent so long sorting and reading, I decided to write about Tristan Bruebach and Manfred Seel, source cite as much as I could, and share the links I found to news stories that were helpful and brought understanding to both stories.  Maybe this can serve as a small clearinghouse of information about the case for English-speaking readers.  In this article I’ve included citation numbers correlating to the source that I got specific information from, and when you scroll down to these sources, I’ve included the English Google Translation for each article originally in German.

Under the cut I will discuss Tristan, Seel, Seel’s other victims and interesting information German profilers and investigators used to track down victims who were killed over 40 years ago.  Please know that much of the information under the cut is disturbing.  Extreme sexual deviancy, child murder, dismemberment, rape, potential cannibalism and possible necrophilia show up in telling Tristan’s and Seel’s stories.  If any of this bothers you, don’t read any further.

The Cannibal’s Guide to Ethical Living by Mykle Hansen

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

Book:  The Cannibal’s Guide to Ethical Living

Author: Mykle Hansen, illustrated by Nate Beaty

Type of Book: Fiction, bizarro, cannibalism

Why Do I Consider This Book Odd: Okay, it’s like a Jonathan Swift satire mixed with that long riddle people tell on road trips about the man who orders seagull and runs screaming out of the restaurant with a tasty helping of Occupy Wall Street on the side.

Availability: Published by Eraserhead Press in 2010, you can get a copy here:

Comments: Oh, this was a fabulous book, and it gives me an excuse to create a “cannibalism” category. It’s one of those books that is the exception that proves the rule. Hansen tells without showing and 90% of the book comes from the protagonist’s one-sided conversation with a man called Louis, both of which are in chapter one of  What Not to Do When You Write a Novel, but Hansen gets away with it.  Why André’s conversation is one-sided is one of those things I cannot reveal lest I utterly spoil the book. In fact, this is going to be a bear to discuss because I cannot reveal many plot elements without just ruining the book.

Bearing that in mind, here’s as brief a synopsis as my enthusiasm will permit: Aboard the good ship l’Arche, along the coast of an island called Cristobo, André and his partner Marko have been engaging in questionable culinary behaviors. One is that they serve unusual meats to millionaires. They lure in jaded millionaires with offerings like giraffe, dining aboard the ship in monied secrecy. But André and Marko also have an ulterior motive catering to millionaires – millionaires evidently make good eating and André embraces the idea of eating the rich. But millionaires also have friends with ships and the L’Arche is under siege as André and Marko scramble to find a way to escape. Louis, a long-time frenemy of André’s, plays a crucial role in all these goings-on but that’s where I have to stop. To discuss his role will expose too much of the story.

With the synopsis out of the way, but before I begin to discuss the meat of this book, as it were, I need to say that this is one of the better-written bizarro novels. Beautiful word flow, gorgeous word choice, decently-enough edited, I wanted to cry midway through it.  I mean, there were some editing issues, but lately I’ve been smacked in the face and possibly on the ass with several terribly edited books. This book was the reward for not chucking out all the strange literature I try to consume and sticking exclusively with Dickens and Austen until the day I die.

And it’s so wonderful that Hansen got that right because this is a novel that demands intense attention to words. When writing of foodie cannibals, one needs a fussy precision and Hansen pulls it off brilliantly. Hansen conveys the near-neurotic attention to detail that foodies often exhibit. Not being a foodie myself, I have no idea if this is food-gibberish or not, but it sure has a decided foodie-riff to it.

…before you leave this place I will prepare for you my Millionaire in Limousine: steaming roasted loin of venture capitalist slow-braised in Madeira, served on a bed of squid-ink cabbage poached with chestnuts and Lardons Millionaires. You’ve never had anything like it. I also insist you try my Aspic Sweetbreads of Heiress Dissolu, molded in a swine’s head terrine and tiaraed with clove and apple. So light and delicate, you’d think it’s made of perfumed dreams.

You see André takes very seriously the consumption of long pig.

This is no mere restaurant – it’s a cathedral of food! Pilgrims to l’Arche have by our rare and exquisite flavors been transported, transmigrated, have communed with the great mystery, have wept with joy, have been saved.

Eating rich men is evidently quite a religious experience. And it is through monologue like this that Hansen deftly creates intense characterization. André does very little in this book, and he speaks mainly to Louis, who never responds, but at the end you end up with André as a character-in-full.