“My Daughter’s Killer” is a poignant true-crime documentary about the sudden death of a young girl whose father refused to accept that his daughter died under normal circumstances. The documentary evokes a multitude of emotions. Initially, we feel for the young daughter knowing how helpless she was, and later it is Andre Bamberski, her father, who spends the rest of his life fighting to bring justice to his daughter. “My Daughter’s Killer” chooses to not indulge in creating dramatic suspense but rather brings forth the unending journey of a father who had to battle against the system for his late daughter.
‘My Daughter’s Killer’ Plot Summary: What Is the Documentary Film About?
From the beginning, we knew Andre Bamberski as a simplistic man who preferred order in his everyday life. When he learned of the sudden demise of his daughter, Kalinka, he was shaken. Kalinka’s stepfather, Dieter Krombach, called the hospital, and when the ambulance arrived, the nurse noticed that the young girl was already in rigor mortis. What seemed strange to her was that Kalinka was injected with calcium. Dieter Krombach was a cardiologist, and he stated that he injected calcium to revive her, thinking that she was dying due to sunstroke. The nurse remembered the mother crying profusely while the doctor was composed but agitated. When Mr. Bamberski was informed about the sudden demise of Kalinka, he arrived in Germany from France. In “My Daughter’s Killer” documentary, he described how he remembered Kalinka as a cheerful little girl. After reaching France, when he visited Kalinka’s mother, his son, Nicholas, mentioned that Kalinka was not exceptionally tired that day. This made Bamberski question what truly led to the death of his daughter. On the day of the funeral, his doubt was further strengthened when people around him started discussing how Kalinka had died as a result of the drug injected into her. Before leaving Germany, Bamberski demanded the autopsy report, which he did not receive immediately. After his persistent request for the autopsy report, he finally received it. The report indicated that Kalinka suffered a case of regurgitation, and Bamberski was surprised that the cause of death was said to be unknown even after stating what had occurred. Not only that, he noticed that the report mentioned Kalinka’s injury at the right lip of her vulva. Bamberski was determined to know the truth. He was sure that his daughter was a victim.
What was surprising is that even after the detailed autopsy report, Krombach was not investigated thoroughly. He simply answered five questions asked by the police from the comfort of his house. A medical examiner studied the section of skin where she was injected and found no poisoning at the site. While it was determined that poisoning was not the cause of death, even the examiner found it strange that a medical professional would resort to injecting the subject when rigor mortis had set in. The fact that he attempted to revive the subject even when she had no chance, and he knew it indicated desperation and also the fact that something was wrong.
Bamberski obsessively goes around trying to find the truth and bring justice to his daughter. Even when most around him doubted his reason for distrusting Krombach, Bamberski was firm in his belief. He wanted justice to be served, and he made it the purpose of his life, refusing to give up no matter what.
Who Was Dieter Krombach?
Dieter Krombach was a cardiologist who had a daughter, Diana, and a son, Boris. He was known to be a charming man who celebrated life, quite the contrary to Bamberski, who was stern and quiet. Bamberski was married to Danielle when she was in her early twenties. They gave birth to Kalinka and Nicholas. But he started to notice that, gradually, Danielle was surrounded by German books and records. He started doubting her, and he knew that it must have been Doctor Krombach, who was their then neighbor. Danielle confessed her feelings for Krombach, and Bamberski shifted with his family to France soon after. Even after moving countries, he could not stop their budding romance. Danielle secretly lived with Krombach by lying about a job for which she had to travel to Nice. Bamberski followed her one day to her job and saw her at the apartment; he then filed for divorce.
Danielle and Krombach later got married. Krombach’s first wife died at the age of 24 for medical reasons, a detail that will make one wonder if Krombach was the reason behind her death. Nearly five years after Kalinka’s death, Danielle and Krombach divorced. He cheated on her with another woman, and that led to their separation. The Germans had a sort of blind trust in their doctors, making most dismiss Bamberski’s doubt. They believed he simply wanted to seek revenge on his ex-wife and her husband. But gradually, he had to face reports of sexual assault. German society during the eighties and nineties was staunchly patriarchal, where marital rape was considered a joke, and women who tried to report sexual assault cases were often laughed at by the police.
Coming forward with one’s traumatic experience was not easy. A 16-year-old girl reported being assaulted by Dr. Krombach, for which he received two years probation. Women in Lindau expressed how mild his sentence was, even though thousands of women petitioned against him. A journalist interviewed Krombach, the first and last interview with the man, after which he refused to comment. The interview is nerve-chilling; the predator was accused of assault, yet he sat comfortably in his chamber laughing while discussing the case. He did not believe that he had assaulted the teenager. According to him, he was expressing his love for her. When asked if she consented to his advances, he replied that the fact that she did not respond or stop him was enough for him to believe that she wanted him to continue. He used to sedate his victims, leaving them helpless and immobile. He felt no guilt or shame for what he had done. He justified his actions, even describing rape as “love making.” The man was a monster, and we knew it by the middle of the “My Daughter’s Killer” documentary, but the laws were not as effective as they are now.
Bamberski had appointed a detective to find out if the man was still practicing. They learned that he was working as a locum and traveling to different towns to continue his practice. Even though his medical license was taken away, he had a copy of it which he used to get work. When a librarian heard of the new doctor in town, she searched him online and read about his past crimes. Even though Krombach was suspended for two years, he was banned from practicing medicine at any clinic, chamber, hospital, or dispensary. He was illegally practicing, and the woman reported it to the higher authorities. Krombach was taken into custody and was sentenced to five years in prison. While the fact that he received punishment for his illegal activity felt right for Bamberski, he believed that it was not enough to bring justice to his daughter.
‘My Daughter’s Killer’ Ending Explained: Was Krombach Punished For Murdering Kalinka?
Even though Bamberski wanted Krombach to be thoroughly investigated, the German authorities chose to close the file. He had political influence as well as he was a doctor, which absolved him of all crimes. He later learned that since Kalinka was French, he could resort to French law for justice. After studying the autopsy and the exhumation, the lawyer confirmed that, indeed, organs were taken out of Kalinka’s body, but they were not placed in the coffin with her. This made the whole ordeal all the more doubtful since it was the absence of the genitalia for which Krombach could not be charged for rape or attempted rape. Krombach appointed a lawyer in France. He dismissed all the allegations and refused to come to France to face the French court of justice. Three French medical professors explained the probable cause of Kalinka’s death. They believed that she had died as a result of shock, which was triggered after Krombach injected her with his medication, resulting in regurgitation. They concluded that her probable cause of death was asphyxiation. After seven years, the court announced their final decision on the charge of intentional violence that caused death. He was sentenced to fifteen years in prison, though he was not present for immediate arrest. Even though the sentence came with an arrest warrant, the German authorities refused to extradite Krombach since he had already been proven innocent according to German laws. There was a political influence that worked in favor of Krombach, forcing the Ministry of Justice in France to request not to carry out Krombach’s sentence.
Bamberski had lost all hope, though he ultimately decided in September 2009 that he would forcefully bring Krombach to France if needed. By then, Krombach had shifted to Austria, and Bamberski started to spread the word in Bregenz that he was looking for someone to help him bring Krombach from Germany to France. A barman decided to help him. He was impressed by the father’s determination and believed it was a noble cause. He refused to take any money from Bamberski and planned to abduct Krombach with the help of two Russian gang members he was familiar with. When Bamberski was in France, Krombach was abducted. As he opened his door upon a bell ring, he was caught hold of and forced inside a van. His hands and feet were tied, and he was gagged. Even though one of the Russian gangsters wanted to tear open Krombach with his knife, the barman made sure that Krombach was taken to France alive. Even though Krombach offered them a lot of money, they refused to let go of him. He was dumped near a courthouse in France. Bamberski informed the police about Krombach and what he had done to get the man there. The fact that Bamberski orchestrated an abduction to bring justice angered a few, and he had to face a court case, though it was all blamed on his moral instinct and the need he felt to bring justice to his daughter after nearly twenty-five years of her death.
Krombach was forced to face the court; people noticed how he enthusiastically answered questions he approved of but pretended that he was unable to hear the questions that he disliked or that were difficult for him. Due to Krombach’s cardiac arrest, the case was held for six months, after which it was resumed. Many victims of Krombach came forward and disclosed how the man had violated them. Even Danielle, who up until then trusted Krombach and advocated for him, was left in disbelief. She could no longer trust the man she once called her husband. He used to add a dose of sedative to her drinks when he wished to carry on with his assaults at home without the disturbance of his wife. Danielle also realized that on the night of the crime, she had abnormally slept for a long time, perhaps the result of a sedative. It can be assumed that Krombach raped Kalinka. Even though Krombach was sentenced to only fifteen years in prison, it was all that could be done with the documents available.
Bamberski was able to explain to the world that he was right to doubt the man. For years he dedicated his life to the grueling process of building evidence to find out what had happened to his daughter. “My Daughter’s Killer” documentary becomes about Bamberski at one point, about his patience and belief in his thought process. His memories with his daughter had perhaps started to blur, but his will to fight for her did not die. In the end, he mentions how he forgot to live his life due to the long legal battles. This cause had taken up his life, and, in a way, he was also fighting for his closure. At the end of the documentary, we learn that Krombach passed away in 2020, and 16 women had come forward claiming they were abused by Krombach.
“My Daughter’s Killer” is a 2022 French Crime Documentary Film directed by Antoine Tassin.