Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Waltraud Gruseck: The False Soprano

A Revealing Past

In late 2009, police learned about the mysterious visit to an attorney by Waltraud and the man purporting to be her husband. The attorney said he thought it was strange that a husband would show up in his office and ask to give his wife power of attorney over his estate for no reason.

Waltraud continued to lie, telling police that the man who had visited the attorney's office was indeed her husband. But now, she said, Mr. Hilss had left again for another trip somewhere. She said she did not know exactly where he was or when he was coming back.

Gruseck's defunct website
Gruseck's defunct website
Digging into her past, it quickly became apparent to police that Waltraud was not the professional singer or dancer she claimed to be. She routinely described herself as a soprano and plugged her self-published CD of cover songs she had sung and recorded on her now-defunct website at But besides the boasts on her website that she was a professional soprano, police never uncovered any evidence that she had performed publicly in any kind of legitimate stage act. She certainly wasn't the diva she often made herself out to be.

If there was one common theme in Waltraud's past life, it was that Waltraud had fostered ambitions to become a professional singer since she had been a child. However, the best description of her talents is that she was a talented amateur.

The daughter of a successful tobacco farmer from a locally prominent family, Waltraud had moved out of her parents' house in Kappel-Grafenhausen to nearby Freiburg as an adult in hopes of making it as a singer, but she had instead spent a large part of her career working at a large grocery story outlet.

She did continue to take singing lessons as an adult. At one point, she helped to book and manage musicians who were hired to play at birthday parties and marriages on behalf of one of her teachers, but she never took part in the performances.

Besides learning about Waltraud's unsuccessful attempts to break into the music business, the police uncovered some sordid facts about Waltraud's past as well: For several years, investigators learned, Waltraud had spent much time at an apartment where men sought prostitutes and where massage services were provided. Police will not go on record that Waltraud herself was ever a prostitute, but a police spokesman said that men came to the apartment for "dates" and that prostitutes were present. While Waltraud quit showing up at the apartment on a regular basis a few years before she married Mr. Hilss, a police spokesman said that he could not confirm whether or not she stopped going to the apartment because of her relationship with Hilss.

Waltraud also used several aliases with the establishment's guests. Sometimes she was "Krezentia Labouche" and other times she went by "Anna." It was an upscale joint, though, with silk tapestries that covered the walls and sculptures. Waltraud also sang there.

Waltraud Gruseck
Waltraud Gruseck
Waltraud also had many male friends with whom she kept in close contact during her marriage and after her husband's disappearance. Investigators would not disclose their identities, but said they were crucial witnesses in the case they made against her. Police were able to locate her network of friends by tracing records of phone calls she had made from her house, calls which she had continued to make even after Mr. Hilss had disappeared.

Her friends told police that Waltraud had asked them to buy odd things for her. One friend said that she had asked him to buy concrete powder. Another said that he had loaned her a saw.

One of the men then admitted to police that he had pretended to be her husband when she asked the lawyer to give her power of attorney over her husband's estate. Police would not say how Waltraud convinced him to pose as her husband, but noted how charming Waltraud could be when needed.

Beyond their associations with Waltraud, all of the men had another thing in common: each thought they were the only lover Waltraud had at the time.

The facts investigators uncovered were enough for police to arrest Waltraud on suspicion of not aiding a person in danger, which under German statutes, is a crime. In March 2010, Waltraud was in custody, but she wasn't saying anything about where Mr. Hilss might be and continued to claim that he was on a trip somewhere that she did not know.

The local Badische Zeitung newspaper published an article with the headline "Missing Fisherman: Tracks Lead to Freiburg." At the end of the article, readers were asked to call the police if they had any contact with Waltraud in Freiburg.

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