‘Famous archaeologist and teen daughter tortured and killed over rare Stradivarius violins’

Three men have been arrested on suspicion of brutally murdering a famous Bavarian archaeologist and his 14-year-old daughter in Paraguay over a set of valuable Stradivarius violins. 

The three Germans are believed to have tortured acquaintance Bernard von Bredow, 62, to death last month in order to force him to turn over certificates of authenticity for four of the rare musical instruments, which could be worth as much as $16m (£11.8m) each.

Von Bedrow’s body was discovered covered in burns and bruises lying on a table with a gunshot wound to the back of his head on Oct. 22 in the town of Aregua, near Asuncion. The body of his daughter Lydia/Loreena was found in a bath full of water with a gunshot wound to the stomach.

Bernard Raymond Von Bredow and his daughter Loreena when they were younger

Police initially suspected they had been the victims of a robbery that went wrong. But on Wednesday they announced the arrest of three German expats: Volker Grannass, 58, Yves Asriel Spartacus Steinmetz, 60, and Stephen Jorg Messing Darchinger, 51.

Paraguay has a sizeable German expat community, and von Bredow – who became world-famous at the age of 16 by discovering a woolly mammoth skeleton near his home in Bavaria – made a living restoring valuable antique musical instruments.

A renowned expert on the Ice Age, he had previously travelled the world and taken part in digs from New Zealand to the UK, where he worked for the National Museum in Cardiff and helped unearth the remains of three mammoths from a gravel pit in Shropshire.

Von Bedrow was a renowned expert on the Ice Age, but since moving to Paraguay had specialised in restoring musical instruments

Credit: United Archives GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo

He moved to Paraguay five years ago, around the same time as the three suspects and they all became friends, according to prosecutors.

So when von Bredow had to make a trip back to Germany, he entrusted the violins to Mr Steinmetz for safe keeping. 

But when he returned Mr Steinmetz claimed they had been destroyed in a fire.

However, the four rare violins – believed to have been made by revered Italian luthier Antonio Stradivari – have since been found in the possession of Mr Grannas, who lived near the von Bredow residence, according to police commissioner Hugo Grance.

Prosecutors believe the three men were unable to sell the violins for their true value without certificates of authenticity that were still in von Bredow’s possession, and that they returned to force him to give them up.

“To commit the crime and such a brutal murder it must be because they knew the victims. We’ve found a lot of evidence,” according to Attorney General Lorena Ledesma.

Mr Granass had previously come forward claiming to be a friend of von Bredow in the wake of his killing.

He even gave interviews to Paraguayan television in which he claimed to be shocked by their murder, saying von Bredow and his daughter lived a “simple” life and never kept money in the house.

Stradivarius violins, made by the Italian Stardaviari family in the 16th and 17th centuries, continue to exert a fascination in the musical world.

Collectors believe they have a superior tone and sound quality to any other violins, despite numerous blind tests which have shown violinists and experts cannot differentiate between them and modern instruments.

A violin attributed to Stradivarius

Credit: Christopher Pledger,

The most expensive Stradivariuses are those made by Antonio Stradivari, the founder of the family business, during his Golden Period from 1700 to 1725.

In 2011, the “Lady Blunt” violin, made by Stradivari in 1721, sold for $15.9m (£11.8m) at auction in London. The violin is named after the granddaughter of Lord Byron, a former owner, and is in pristine condition.

A number of Stradivariuses have been stolen in recent years, although they are hard to sell even on the black market, because of the intense publicity they attract.

The Lipinski Stradivarius was stolen in an armed robbery in 2014 but found safely ten days later hidden in a suitcase in an attic.

Roman Totenberg's Stadivarius violin on display after being recovered in 2015

Credit: Andrew Burton
/Getty Images North America

The General Kyd Straduivarius was stolen in 2004 and returned three weeks later by a woman who said she found it abandoned near a dumpster.

The Ames Stradivarius was stolen from the violinist Roman Totenberg in 1980 by one of its students, and only returned in 2015 after the student’s death.

A number of stolen Stradivariuses remain missing to this day, including the Karpilowsky, which was stolen in 1953.

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