By Walton Golightly
It was the morning of May 31, 1982, and Dusseldorf police were investigating a report of a death ‘in suspicious circumstances’. The scene was a flat in the city’s low-rent Metzer Street district. The naked body of a man sat on a couch, his dead fingers folded around the handle of a butcher’s knife protruding from his chest. The medical examiner would later determine the man had been dead for about 24 hours.
According to the friend who found him, the deceased was Spanish immigrant Jose Fernandez. Thinking they were dealing with a suicide, the police searched the apartment – and found what appeared to be a journal. Hand-drawn inverted crosses and other symbols adorned the cover. The first page contained a curse promising damnation for anyone who read further.
“O Lucifer, Prince of Darkness, I would sell you my soul,” read one entry. The other entries were equally deranged, but by and large, harmless. Then detectives police got to the entry for April 30, Walpurgisnacht, a major witches festival. But the writer of the journal was anything but a gentle Wiccan.
“O Lucifer, Prince of Darkness,” read the entry, “show me a sign. I want to be possessed by you totally. Come to me when Jose is sleeping.” Suddenly the suicide began to look more like a homicide.
A door-to-door inquiry revealed that since August 1981 the dead man had been living with Sylvia Brakel, 22. The relationship seemed to be an ‘open one’. That is, Sylvia seemed okay with Fernandez entertaining a string of girlfriends whenever the fancy took him. Nor did it seem to cause any friction that Sylvia also lived ‘part-time’ with her teenage lesbian lover in another apartment.
What really aroused suspicion was the fact that Sylvia was known to be obsessed with devil worship. Which suggested the journal found at the dead man’s flat belonged to her. But did she murder Fernandez – or had he committed suicide, as investigators initially assumed?
A trawl through police files came up with the fact that Sylvia was once charged with attacking a former boyfriend – with a knife. Social workers at the time learnt she’d been raped at the age of eight by her grandfather. After spending a year in a juvenile offenders’ institution, Sylvia took up with a baker’s apprentice, who introduced her to Satanism. It was he who she later stabbed.
Police brought in a number of Sylvia’s Satanist cronies for questioning. Several admitted she’d told them she’d killed Fernandez. And Lucifer had nothing to do with it. It seems Fernandez had incautiously accused Sylvia of being unfaithful. Thinking that was rich coming from him, she stabbed and killed him – then made it look like a suicide attempt. In March 1983, Sylvia Brakel was sentenced to life imprisonment.
Killing For Lucifer
By Walton Golightly