BARMBEK, HAMBURG – GERMANY.
On a summer evening in 2011 Thomas Fischer realised a plan that was years in the making. His apartment housed explosives and a homemade torture chamber, and combined with his sadistic wish, Fischer was about to unleash a wave of terror. As his plans were about to come to fruition, a simple knock on the door would change everything.
Lead up to Crime
When neighbours enquired about Thomas Fischer, 30, installing a security camera above his front door and lacing the outside of the windows with heavy barbed wire, threaded through large eye screws, he told them it was to deter burglars, claiming his flat had been broken into on three occasions. Neighbours were getting their first glimpse into the world of a sadist on the edge.
Unemployed, Fischer earned money selling Nazi uniforms online. He also scoured markets and online sale sites, collecting weapons, including; a gun, a grenade, and medical equipment to use for torture.
Fischer, a gangly man with an un-styled wispy beard and thin pointed features, was described as a cold sadist who never smiled. He would regularly visit homeless people, buying them coffee and ogling women. He was a self-confessed virgin, who froze in fear if approached by a woman.
Thomas Fischer was cautious not to say anything about himself. He wore military jackets, and those who knew him could see he was mentally unstable. Often he would ask associates where he could buy items such as guns or dental equipment.
Fischer once presented a friend with a box containing a rabbit. “Please kill it for me,” Fischer instructed. “I want to eat.”
Inside Thomas Fischer’s ground floor apartment the kitchen was stocked with more than a ton-and-a-half of non-perishable food items, enough for the captor and victim to hold out for months. The premises contained a total of 113 fire extinguishers. Eight extinguishers had been converted into fertiliser bombs, constructed from plans sourced off the internet. The bombs were rigged throughout the two-room apartment, designed to detonate when he had completed his plan, or if he was captured.
The small room, with white concrete walls and florescent light, was decorated only with what Fischer needed to fulfil his fantasies. The small flat was not so much a residence, but rather an aboveground bunker to see out the End of Days.
A yellow phone box weighing more than 250 kilograms stood inside the room. Fischer had modified the phone box, insulating it with soundproofing, securing an outside lock, and rigging it with explosives. He had constructed his own DIY cell and torture chamber, waiting for someone to inhabit it. The large windows of the phone booth faced out to a desk, where multiple computers were hooked up. He could watch his victim, even while he was online, as though she was an exotic fish in an aquarium. On the back of the phone box was an old sticker that read, “SOS.”
It is unclear where the phone box was purchased, but many are available on the German version of eBay for a few hundred euros.
On August 19, 2011, Fischer set his plan into action.
Fischer selected his victim, a 26-year-old Israeli born woman studying in Germany. Fischer was an acquaintance of the woman, having been introduced to her through mutual friends the previous May. He became obsessed with the woman and stalked her, becoming increasingly consumed by the idea of “owning” her.
Fischer lived a life of social isolation, though he desired to have a family despite never having a relationship with a woman. His obsession with starting a family became sinister and overwhelming. He fell in love with his victim and on hearing that she was returning to Israel soon he enacted his plan.
On this Friday evening in summer, at approximately 7:45 p.m., Fischer knocked on the student’s door. When she answered, he kidnapped her at gunpoint. He constrained her wrists in handcuffs and took her back to his apartment in the Barmbek district of Hamburg. Other reports claimed she was seized off the street.
As Fischer directed the terrified student through his flat, she was confronted with gynaecological instruments lying on benches. He had purchased a mannequin to practice on, training how to use needles and scalpels. Also in the apartment were a number of pregnancy tests and a blow up doll.
Part of Fischer’s plan was to contain the woman in his flat and impregnate her. He had collected fertility drugs, and planned to use the gynaecological equipment to help her get pregnant and deliver the baby.
Fate would intervene with a knock on the door. Fischer answered.
The captivity lasted only two hours. Fischer forgot to lock the door of his beloved phone box torture chamber when he answered the apartment door. Still in handcuffs, the terrified woman escaped from the phone box at around 9:45 p.m.
Fischer had constructed heavy wooden barricades to place over the windows, held in place with large wooden beams. The same beams were also designed to hold the front door in place. Fischer never had time to install the last segments of his trap.
The woman plunged through the window, lacerating her skin as she passed through the thick mesh of criss-cross barbed wire. She fell to the bushes below and ran up the street screaming for help. Fischer pursued his victim, but she managed to out run him and took cover at a friend’s house. Neighbours witnessed the event and alerted authorities.
Fischer returned to his flat and waited for the police to arrive. When they discovered him he was carrying a 9-millimetre handgun, a grenade, and refused to speak.
Police discovered homemade explosive materials in the basement and the area was evacuated. Video would later emerge of Fischer carrying dozens of fire extinguishers down to the basement, some of which were then turned into fertiliser bombs.
“My son was an honest boy; there has never been trouble with the police,” said Thomas’s father, Hans Fischer.
Police were already aware of Fischer — in 2009 he was investigated five times for stalking, though no charges were laid. He had previous failed attempts at meeting women, which also escalated to stalking. In 2003 he stalked German actress Eva Habermann, writing her letters and setting up a camp in her garden. Other previous charges against Fischer included assault and fraud.
Thomas Fischer’s charges for his current crime included: taking a hostage, depriving a person of freedom, and explosives violations.
In April 2012, the charges against Fischer were dropped because he suffered from a severe psychiatric disorder, resulting in him not being responsible for his actions, and therefore unable to enter a plea. His defence lawyer agreed with the prosecution that Fischer needed help provided by the state. Thomas Fischer was sentenced to an indefinite term in a secure psychiatric hospital.
“My life was in danger but despite everything, I managed to escape,” the victim told an Israeli newspaper, a few days after her ordeal. “Everything is behind me now. I am staying at the home of the Israeli family in Hamburg where I originally intended to be while taking a course. I will be back in Israel in a few days.
“A lot of the things that were published in the media were exaggerated. They made him out to be a sadist who wanted to attack me — that’s not true. The same is true for the gynaecological devices found in his apartment. It was total embellishment.”
German police confirmed gynaecological equipment was found in the apartment, though it was not reported that any had been used on the victim.
After her ordeal the victim returned to live in Israel. Fischer offered an apology to her and hoped that she would heal as a result of the trial.