What is Odinism? The Delphi murders suspect claims a pagan cult is behind the killings

Richard Allen’s attorneys claim there were ‘possible Odinism signatures left behind at the crime scene’ where Libby German and Abby Williams were found dead. Rachel Sharp reports

Tuesday 07 May 2024 16:59 BST
A makeshift vigil at the scene of the murders
A makeshift vigil at the scene of the murders (AP)

The notorious Delphi murders case has taken another shocking twist as accused killer Richard Allen made a bombshell claim about the killings of teenagers Libby German and Abby Williams.

In court documents released last year, the then-50-year-old local man maintained his innocence of the 2017 killings and instead claimed that the murders were carried out by a pagan cult hijacked by white nationalists.

“Members of a pagan Norse religion, called Odinism, hijacked by white nationalists, ritualistically sacrificed Abigail Williams and Liberty German,” his attorneys wrote in the documents seen by The Independent.

Mr Allen’s attorneys said that “possible Odinism signatures” were left behind by the killers at the crime scene, with the victims’ bodies staged by trees with branches and sticks laid across their bodies in the shape of pagan symbols.

While Mr Allen has no known connection to any pagan cult, his defence attorneys also took the extraordinary step of naming four individuals they say are involved in Odinism as potential suspects.

None of these individuals have ever been named by law enforcement as suspects or persons of interest in the case.

What is Odinism?

Odinism is a pagan Norse religion with origins in ancient Viking and Nordic beliefs and pre-Christian European culture.

Sometimes referred to as Wotanism, it is seen as a “racist variant” of the pagan religious sect Asatru, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

While Asatru itself is not racist, over the years Odinism has become increasingly tied to white supremacist and neo-Nazi beliefs in the US.

Many followers – known as Odinites – are now said to exist among the white supremacist prison population.

“The religion, which revives a pre-Christian pantheon of Norse gods, is appealing to white supremacists because it mythologises the virtues of early northern European whites – seen as wandering barbarians, deeply involved in a mystical relationship with nature, struggling heroically against the elements,” the Southern Poverty Law Center explains.

“It sings the virtues of the tribe, or folk, strongly emphasizing genetic closeness. And it credits whites with building civilisation and an ethic of individual responsibility, even as they boldly slew wild boars, fought for their tribes and explored the far reaches of the known world.”

Were Libby and Abby killed by Odinites?

The murders of Libby and Abby have never been publicly linked to Odinism before now.

But, according to Mr Allen’s attorneys, law enforcement officials did explore the cult’s possible involvement early on in the investigation – as far back as February 2018.

On 13 February 2017, Libby and Abby disappeared after setting off on a walk along the Monon High Bridge Trail in their hometown of Delphi.

During the walk, Libby posted a photo of her best friend on Snapchat as they walked along the Monon High Bridge.

Minutes later, Libby captured a video of a man – known as “bridge guy” – dressed in blue jeans, a blue jacket and a cap walking along the abandoned railroad bridge. In the footage – found on Libby’s phone following their murders – the man tells the two girls: “Guys, down the hill.”

Libby German on Monon High Bridge (Snapchat)

The next day – Valentine’s Day 2017 – the girls’ bodies were discovered in a wooded area less than half a mile off the trail along the side of Deer Creek.

In the court documents, Mr Allen’s attorneys claim that there were “possible Odinism signatures left behind at the crime scene” including the staging of the bodies and branches displayed on the victims to create pagan symbols and shapes.

Describing the scene as “ghoulish”, the documents also reveal never-before-known details about how Libby and Abby died.

The teenage best friends both had their necks slashed, the documents reveal.

Libby was found at the base of a tree with “four tree branches of varying sizes intentionally placed in a very specific and arranged pattern on her naked body” and blood spots and drippings all over her body.

Abby, meanwhile, was fully clothed, including in Libby’s sweatshirt and jeans, the documents state.

There was no blood on her clothing, indicating that she was likely murdered while naked and then dressed after she was killed. Tree branches and sticks had also been arranged on her body, the documents state.

Richard Allen at court hearing in November 2022 (AP)

Both victims appeared to have been moved after they were murdered and positioned.

According to Mr Allen’s attorneys, police on the case did investigate a link to Odinism but, after speaking to an expert, the theory was quickly “abandoned”.

Several officials continued to believe an Odinist cult was behind the murders but the information was withheld from the defence, his attorneys claim.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in