Police in Paraguay announced the arrest of three men Wednesday on suspicion they killed a German man and his teenage daughter in a plot to sell stolen rare antique violins.
German nationals Bernard Raymond von Bredow, 62, and his 14-year-old daughter, Lydia, were found murdered in a small town a few miles outside of the capital of Asuncion on October 22.
At the time, police investigator Hugo Grance said that authorities suspected the two victims had been shot to death in a robbery. But on Wednesday, he said the two were killed because the suspects were searching for certificates of authenticity for four Stradivarius violins that had belonged to von Bredow.
Von Bredow reportedly moved to the South American nation two years earlier and settled in the town of Aregua, a popular rural area for German expats. He became known to neighbors as an antique violin connoisseur.
On Wednesday, Grance announced the arrest of two Germans, Volker Grannas, 58, and Ives Asriel Spartacus Steinmetz, 60, along with the detention of Stephen Jorg Messing Darchinger, 51, from Chile. Police found the four antique violins in Grannas’ house.
Authorities said the men were “close friends” of von Bredow and that von Bredow left the Stradivarius violins with Grannas while he made a brief trip to Germany. “Supposedly, when he returned, [von Bredow] was informed that the instruments were destroyed during a fire.”
After the bodies were discovered, the police said that the house had been turned upside-down and von Bredow’s body showed signs of torture.
Grance said Wednesday that investigators’ principal hypothesis of the motive for the double murder “was to find the international certification of authenticity of the violins in order to be able to sell them. This idea agrees, then, with the traces of torture on von Bredow's body.”
The musical instruments, crafted by Italian violin maker Antonio Stradivari around 250 years ago, could fetch millions on the open market, but only with the certificate proving their authenticity. Police said that it was “probable” that more people were involved in the crime.
Lorena Ledesma, one of the lead investigators on the murders, told local media that the break in the case came when police began to suspect that the perpetrators must have known the victims.
“We made the decision to search the homes of the people closest to the victims and we found a lot of evidence,” she said.
Ledesma claimed that they found various guns in Grannas’ house, and discovered an additional gun that they believed to have been involved in the murders in Darchinger's residence. She also said they found maps that showed where the authenticity certificates were located in the victims' house.
“It’s like something out of a movie,” said Ledesma.
Along with his interest in violins, von Bredow reportedly founded a museum in Germany about mammoths. As a teenager, von Bredow discovered an intact mammoth skeleton near his hometown in the state of Bavaria.