Netflix’s documentary, Dig Deeper, investigates the disappearance of a German woman, Birgit Meier. She went missing from her house in Breitungen on August 14, 1989.
The documentary film, written and directed by Nicolas Steiner, follows Birgit’s brother, Wolfgang Sielaff, and his core team, who hustled to find the mystery behind her disappearance. The police failed to find any concrete evidence and thus closed the case. But Wolfgang conducted a personal investigation after his retirement. He assembled a team of investigators and, with their help, concluded the case in 2017. Let’s follow through and unravel the mystery further.
‘Dig Deeper – The Disappearance of Birgit Meier’ Plot Summary
On August 14, 1989, 41-year old Birgit Meier suddenly disappeared from her house in Breitungen-Moorburg. Her daughter, Yasmine, visited the house but found no traces of her mother. In a panic, she contacted her father, Harald (Birgit’s husband), and her uncle, Wolfgang Sielaff (Birgit’s brother).
At that time, Wolfgang was the head of state criminal police in Hamburg, who looked after organized crime. Birgit’s case took place in the Lüneburg area, which was outside of his jurisdiction. Wolfgang contacted the head of CIU, Mr Rollert, and requested that he treat Birgit’s house as a crime scene.
The police searched Birgirt’s house and the area around it, but they couldn’t find evidence.
The Initial Investigation
Birgit and her husband, Harald, married young because Birgit got pregnant with Yasmine. The two failed to sustain their married life and decided to separate. Harold started dating another woman, Mrs. Philips. When Birgit found out about their affair, she became an alcoholic and started living alone in a house she bought in Breitungen. The police found out that Harald had visited Birgit on the evening of August 14 to talk about their divorce agreement. He was the last one to see her, and Yasmin was the last one to speak to her mother on a phone call.
The police were looking for a motive and believed that Harald would have lost millions if the couple had gotten a divorce. They theorized that he killed his wife to save money. It was an entirely baseless theory cooked up by the police to close the case.
However, after the case caught media attention, a friend of Birgit’s informed Harald that she had a conversation with Birgit on August 14. In the discussion, Birgit mentioned a man, Kurt-Werner Wichmann, whom she first met at a birthday party at her neighbor’s house. Wichmann had a criminal record, and thus the police quickly brought him to the station for interrogation.
Hence, Harald Meier and Kurt-Werner Wichmann became the main suspects in Birgit Meier’s case.
The Missteps of the Police
On October 26, 1989, the police brought Kurt-Werner Wichmann to the station. He didn’t have a proper alibi, was wearing gloves during the interrogation, and the air around him suggested that he was hiding something. But police were hard-bent on framing the husband and treated the matter as a missing person case. They neglected the possibility of any violent crime and Wichmann’s involvement.
When the police couldn’t find any substantial evidence against Harald, they entertained the possibility that Mr. Wichmann could be a suspect too. And they finally issued a search warrant against him in 1993, four years after Birgit’s disappearance.
Arrest and Death of Kurt-Werner Wichmann
On February 24, 1993, the police knocked on Wichmann’s door, but he wasn’t waiting for them, to their surprise. He had already fled and disappeared. The police found a secret room in the attic during the search, where they found some serious evidence that connected Wichmann to Birgit’s case. The police found handcuffs stained with blood, a small-caliber rifle, weapons, ammunition, bondage equipment, a shooting vest, injections, anesthesia, and whatnot.
At that time, Wichmann had six cars under his name. In one of his cars, police found evidence that supported the fact that Wichmann often traveled and slept in the car. They even recovered a buried car from Wichmann’s property and found some bloodstains in the back seat. It became one of the most shocking discoveries in the history of crime.
On April 15, fifty days after his flight, Wichmann was arrested in an accident on a country road near Bad Wimpfen. The police found machine gun parts and ammunition in his car, along with lots of cash and a cheques. He was handed over to the authorities and was later sent to the correctional facility in Heimsheim.
Ten days after his arrest, Kurt-Werner Wichmann, 43, committed suicide by hanging himself in his cell in Heimsheim Prison. After his death, the police only dealt with dead ends and closed Birgit’s case. All the evidence pointed at Wichmann and persuaded the police to dig deeper into his connection with Birgit’s disappearance. But the investigators didn’t bat an eye.
Birgit’s brother didn’t give up. After he retired from the service, Wolfgang Sielaff conducted his own personal investigation to find out his sister’s perpetrator.
Wolfgang Sielaff – The Real-Life Sherlock Holmes
Sir Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes influenced Wolfgang Sielaff to become a detective. He was fascinated with psychological criminal cases and, after his retirement, used his expertise to unravel the mystery of his sister’s disappearance.
Wolfgang wasn’t happy with the investigation of the previous investigators and believed that there were lots of unanswered questions. Hence, he assembled a team of professional investigators, including criminal psychologist Reinhard Chedor, police psychologist Claudia Brockmann, lawyer Gerhard Strate, and others.
In their assessment, Kurt-Werner Wichmann was the prime suspect, and they thoroughly scrutinized his background. Born on July 8, 1949, Wichmann had a difficult childhood. He was raised in a refugee center and grew up in a problematic family with an abusive father and a negligent mother. In his youth, Wichmann craved love and attention but didn’t get any. He started spending time in the woods and showed signs of psychosomatic disorders. His family couldn’t afford to raise him, and so Wichmann was sent to a foster home. One of his childhood friends said that even as a child, Wichmann used to bury things and was extremely cruel to animals.
The Psychology of Kurt-Werner Wichmann Explained
In his early years, Wichmann was accused of attempted murder and grand theft. The tragedy was averted, and he was sent to a juvenile center. His crimes were neglected until on November 21, 1970, three years later, a 21-year-old Wichmann tried to kill a 17-year-old hitchhiker whom he gave a lift to on a lonely evening. He was sentenced to five-and-a-half years in prison, but he didn’t serve the whole sentence. Wichmann was released early, and he disappeared for almost 19 years.
According to other evidence collected throughout the investigation, Claudia Brockmann created Wichmann’s psychological profile. He was an attention seeker, a compulsive liar, and a womanizer. He owned a lot of cars that acted as status symbols for him, and his leather jacket made him look like some sort of James Dean. But he wasn’t interested in the so-called limelight. He was a complex case of Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and he showed signs of a split personality disorder. While he told the police that he was happily married to Alice, Wichmann also had a secret life that no one was aware of.
His marriage life was a mask that he wore to protect himself from cases like Birgit Meier. Because he told the police that he was a happily married man, no one suspected that he could have anything to do with another woman’s murder.
During his investigation, Wolfgang Sielaff found out that Wichmann owned six cars and traveled around 30 thousand kilometers on the road. He probably hunted for new women in new cities and spent days in his car. A criminologist, Jens Furhmann, found anonymous private ads in adult magazines given by Wichmann in which he often used the words “forest” and “woods.”
Wolfgang knew that Wichmann killed his sister, Birgit Meier, but struggled to find concrete evidence to prove his theory.
Who Killed Birgit Meier?
Wichmann was a sociopath. Even in his suicide letter, he didn’t show any signs of guilt, remorse, or sadness. He just plainly asked his wife, Alice, and brother to hold onto the ownership of the house and never sell it to anyone. The Wichmann’s house at 15 Streitmoor remained under Alice’s custody until she died in 2006. The new owner, Mr. Rudloff, Alice’s widow, cooperated with Wolfgang and let him investigate Wichmann’s secret room. The team found Nazi-related videotapes, but the two cassettes especially caught their attention. These two tapes belonged to crime shows that broadcast Birdet’s case and a double murder called the Göhrde Murders.
Since the retired detectives had collected a lot of evidence, the police reopened Birgit Meier’s case and deployed Richard Kaufmann to investigate further. As Richard took the case, he looked into the evidence collected from Wichmann’s secret room. The handcuffs with bloodstains recovered in 1993 caught his attention, and Richard discovered that they were sent to the medical school in Hannover for forensic examination.
Dr. Rothämel re-examined the blood stains on the handcuffs, which matched with Birgit Meier’s DNA (99.99 percent). As this new evidence came to light, the police concluded that Kurt-Werner Wichmann killed Birgit Meier. But where was her body?
‘Dig Deeper – The Disappearance of Birgit Meier’ Ending Explained
The investigators searched every corner of the 1300 acres of land owned by Kurt-Werner Wichmann. But they didn’t find any human remains. The police were exhausted by the search and closed the case again. They had found their perpetrator, and for them, a body wasn’t a necessity.
Wolfgang Sielaff and his gang secretly investigated the house and discovered an 80-centimeter deep car pit inside Wichmann’s garage. Generally, a car pit is about 180 meters deep. Hence, Wolfgang believed that someone had dumped another layer on it to bury something beneath it.
Forensic expert Eilin Jopp-Van Well scrutinized the pit and found a metatarsal bone in an unusual spot. The crew dug deeper and found a whole skeleton buried inside the pit. Eilin concluded that it belonged to a woman. The head was wrapped in a plastic bag. When Birgit’s husband, Harald, arrived at the scene, he noticed tiny ear studs on the skull. He gifted those earrings to Birgit and thus identified that the skeleton belonged to Birgit Meier.
Almost after 27 years, Birgit Meier’s body was found in 2017 with the help of an investigation carried out by her brother, Wolfgang Sielaff.
A Hypothetical Guess at the Act of Murder – What Really Happened That night?
Based on his investigations, Wolfgang and his team believed that on the night of Birgit’s disappearance, Wichmann broke into Birgit’s bedroom. This guess was based on the fact that when the police investigated the house, they found a shoe print, an open patio door, and two different cigarettes brands in the ashtray. They believed that someone else was in the room other than Birgit.
After breaking into the bedroom, Wichmann attacked, drugged, or seduced Birgit. A napkin was found under the bed, which was never sent for forensic examination, but based on anesthesia found in Wichmann’s secret room, Wolfgang believed that he had drugged Birgit.
The neighbor told the police that she heard a car engine running at 1:30 am during the night of Birgit’s disappearance. Wolfgang theorized that maybe, while Wichmann attacked Birgit in the bedroom, Wichmann’s younger brother was sitting in the car to distract the neighbors.
Wichmann died in 1993 and hence couldn’t be interrogated for his acts. But based on forensic reconstruction, she was kidnapped and held prisoner in Wichmann’s secret room in the attic. He handcuffed her in the soundproof room, where she spent hours or days. In the end, Wichmann shot her in the head and wrapped a plastic bag around her head to avoid a blood spill.
The 400 Exhibits Recovered from Wichmann’s Property
After Birgit’s body was recovered from Wichmann’s garage, the police finally came to their senses and conducted a full-fledged search of the estate. They didn’t find any other human remains but unearthed around 400 exhibits, evidence related to the case.
These wallets, shoes, and handbags belonged to different men and women who were either attacked or killed by Kurt-Werner Wichmann. He cherished them as trophies from his victims and probably buried them on his property. The videotapes of Birdet’s case and the Göhrde Murders were also collected as trophies.
Wichmann probably looked at them and laughed at the police because he had tricked them and fled from under their noses. In his suicide letter, Wichmann believed that his days were numbered and that the police would finally find evidence against him. Little did he know that he was dealing with some really incompetent law enforcers.
Kurt-Werner Wichmann – The Suspect of Göhrde Double Murders
As these exhibits came to light, the cold cases department actively investigated Wichmann’s involvement in different other cases in the area. It led them to a double murder conspiracy in the Göhrde National Forest in 1989. Within weeks, four dead bodies (two couples) were recovered near Lüneburg.
The second couple’s car wasn’t found near the crime scene but was recovered two kilometers away. Inside the vehicle, the police found DNA that was later matched with Wichmann’s DNA in 2017. Police had taken Wichmann’s blood sample during his arrest in 1993 and had stored his DNA.
It was suspected that Wichmann placed a personal ad in the magazine and lured these two couples to the Göhrde forest, where he brutally murdered them. The police even theorized the involvement of a second person, who was probably Wichmann’s younger brother, but they couldn’t arrest him due to a lack of evidence.
These cases could have been solved in 1989 when the police first brought Wichmann in for investigation. So many lives could have been saved if police had tried to dig deeper. Birgit Meier’s family wouldn’t have to wait 27 years to finally get closure if the police had diligently done their job. Though people have a right to an effective police investigation, the attitude of the police tells a different story.
Dig Deeper: The Disappearance of Birgit Meier is a 2021 German Crime Documentary film written and directed by Nicolas Steiner. It follows the investigation of the alleged serial killer, Kurt-Werner Wichmann.